On Monday, Moscow informed the UN, Ukraine, and Turkey that it would no longer renew the deal, accusing the West of failing to keep its side of the bargain. World leaders have condemned the decision. Some say it will impact some of the poorest people on the planet.
Russia said it would return to the deal only if its conditions were met. The deal ended formally at midnight on Tuesday, Istanbul time (2100 GMT). It had let cargo vessels sail via the Black Sea from the ports of Odesa, Yuzhny/Pivdennyi, and Chornomorsk.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, had long been complaining about portions of the deal permitting the export of Russia’s food and fertilizers not being honored. Specifically, he said that grain had not been supplied to poorer nations, which was a condition of the deal.
Russia kept complaining that Western sanctions were limiting its agricultural exports. Putin kept threatening to pull out of this deal. On Monday, the Russian foreign ministry reiterated the grievances, accusing the West of “open sabotage” and of “selfishly” placing the commercial interests of the agreement ahead of humanitarian aims.
But Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, informed reporters that he believed Vladimir Putin wants to continue the deal and would be open to discussing the agreement renewal once they meet in person next month.
The grain deal is essential as Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of sunflower, barley, maize, and wheat.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022 (Feb), naval vessels blockaded the ports of Ukraine and trapped about 20 million tons of grain. The blockade resulted in global food prices skyrocketing. It further threatened food supplies to many African and Middle Eastern countries which heavily rely on Ukraine’s grain. A deal was brokered in 2022 (July) with the UN’s and Turkey’s aid.
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s President, said that his country intends to keep exporting grain, highlighting that the deal was made up of two agreements that mirrored each other
— One signed by Russia and the other by Ukraine.
He said that the country was approached by firms who own vessels, and they are willing to continue shipping grain if Ukraine lets them in and Turkey to sail them through. Mykhaylo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelensky, recommended that an international armed patrol force be created to escort vessels loaded with grain from Ukraine and ensure their safety.
However, He also admitted that only some nations might want to create the patrols. Nikolay Gorbachev, the Ukrainian Grain Association president, informed the BBC that his members had been able to identify other alternative ways of exporting grains, including via its Danube River ports.
He also mentioned that the ports would be relatively less efficient, lowering the amount of grain Ukraine can export and raising the cost of moving it. World leaders quickly condemned the decision, with Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission President, accusing Russia of its “cynical move.” At the same time, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, described this move as a mere “act of cruelty.”
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who heads the World Trade Organization, said that Black Sea trade in food, feed, and fertilizer was critical to maintaining the stability of worldwide food prices, adding that hope must be alive that Moscow would rethink pulling out of the agreement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the organization would try to devise solutions to an increase in human suffering that would follow Russia’s decision “inevitably.” Guterres explained there is much at stake in a hungry and hurting world.
The Kremlin’s declaration came hours after an attack on a Crimea bridge that took two civilians’ lives. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility officially, but a source in the country’s security service informed the BBC that Russia was behind the attack.
Peskov said that Russia letting the agreement expire was not related to the attack. Before the attack, the position was declared by Putin; he informed the reporters in Moscow.
Reference: World Grain, Financial Times, Alja Zeera
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