U.N. chief Antonio Guterres visited the war-scarred southern Ukraine's main port of Odesa on Friday, a day after he said Turkey and Ukraine hoped to scale up their landmark grain export deal with Russia.
The visit was due as Russian forces pursued a relentless bombardment campaign in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, with Kyiv reporting five people killed across the industrial province of Donetsk in the last 24 hours.
As part of the U.N. chief's visit to Ukraine, he met with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the grain deal inked in Istanbul, and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
At a joint press conference with the three leaders, Guterres said the United Nations aimed to "scale-up" operations under the deal ahead of winter.
The only significant agreement between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February, has so far seen 25 boats carrying some 6,00,000 tonnes of agricultural products depart from three designated ports, Kyiv has said.
Zelensky told Erdogan and Guterres at the press conference he believes it is a "global need to increase the number of vessels that safely export Ukrainian food".
"Our state is ready to be and will be the guarantor of global food security," Zelensky added.
Guterres is expected to head to Turkey after Odesa to visit the Joint Coordination Centre, the body tasked with overseeing the accord.
The agreement between Kyiv and Moscow to clear exit corridors from three Ukrainian ports, including Odesa, has brought some relief to concerns of global food shortage with the warring countries among the world's leading producers.
It looked to be on the verge of collapse when, one day after it was signed, Russian missiles hit the port of Odesa, spurring an outcry from global leaders.
It has since held but the accord has brought little respite along the sprawling front lines in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have edged slowly forward after nearly six months of fighting.