Three more ships carrying grain left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Tuesday, a day after President Vladimir V Putin signaled that Russia would no longer ensure the safety of cargo ships, a message underscoring the dangers a tipping point deal aims to prevent it to alleviate the global food crisis.
Russian authorities were briefed on Tuesday of the ships’ departure, said Ismini Palla, a UN spokeswoman for the organization overseeing the deal, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative. On Monday, 12 cargo ships with grain left the ports of Ukraine without incident. The departure of those ships and those leaving Ukraine on Tuesday was authorized before the deal was suspended, Ms Palla said.
Russia announced on Saturday that it was suspending its participation in the deal after committing an attack on its Black Sea fleet over the weekend, which it blamed on Ukraine. But Moscow’s decision hasn’t halted ship movements entirely, at least for now.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat and other grains, and the July deal, negotiated with the help of Turkey and the United Nations, had offered hope for Ukraine’s shattered economy, as well as the prospect of some relief for dozens of countries in Africa and in addition, are faced with food shortages.
At a press conference late Monday night following a meeting with leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Sochi, Russia, Mr Putin reiterated that Russia was suspending its participation in the deal and insisted that it shoulder the responsibility for ensuring Ukraine’s security near Ukraine there is a corridor established for the safe export of grain from Ukraine.
Mr Putin did not rule out that Russia would honor the grain deal again. “We are not saying that we will stop participating in this operation,” Putin said. “We’re saying we’re pausing it.”
Mr Putin also gave a gruff and menacing response when asked by a state television journalist if Monday’s rocket attacks on Ukraine were in response to the weekend’s attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. “This is partly the case,” Mr Putin said. “But that’s not all we could do.”
Moscow’s decision meant a halt to its participation in ship inspections at the port of Istanbul – and ensuring safety for all cargo ships crossing the Black Sea, where its navy dominates.
Russia’s Defense Ministry stressed the point in a statement Monday night, saying that shipping traffic through the security corridor established for the Grain Initiative was “unacceptable”. She accused the Ukrainian military of using the corridor for “operations” against Russia without providing evidence, saying “there can be no question of ensuring security” until Ukraine makes additional pledges not to use it for “military purposes.” ” to use.
Underscoring the potential risks to Ukrainian grain exports, Ukraine’s military said on Monday that Russian shelling at the Black Sea port in Ochakiv hit two civilian smugglers involved in transporting a grain barge. Two people were killed and another crew member was injured, it said. The incident and the ships involved did not appear to be directly related to the grain business.
The statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry — coupled with remarks by Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya, told Interfax that Moscow “cannot allow unimpeded passage of ships without our inspection” — signaled that the movement of ships carrying grain , may not continue.
UN officials have held talks with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, leading some analysts to believe the deal could be restored. And Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that his government would continue efforts to overcome Moscow’s opposition. The Kremlin views the deal, which is due to expire in mid-November if not renewed, as leverage to achieve its broader war goals, analysts say.
Alexandra Prokopenko, An independent analyst and Russia expert writing for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said one Russian goal could be to secure further exemptions for its own food and fertilizer exports from so-called hidden sanctions, such as the increased cost of insuring ships.
Ivan Nekhepurenko and Safak Timur contributed reporting.