By Elizabeth Sykes
The Russian Defense Ministry warned Wednesday, July 19 that any ships traveling to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports would be considered carriers of military cargoes as of 00:00 Moscow time on July 20, 2023, said CGTN. That Wednesday evening, attacks on Ukrainian ports destroyed vast amounts of agricultural shipments and infrastructure in Ukrainian ports, Reuters said.
Overnight on Wednesday July 19, Russia attacked Ukraine shipping infrastructure, with Ukraine accusing Russia of destroying 60,000 tons of grain in the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk intended for shipment to China. Ukraine had tried to set up a temporary shipping route to continue its grain exports after Russia pulled out of the U.N.-backed Black Sea Deal that allowed transport of grain from its Black Sea ports of Yuzhny, Odesa and Chornomorsk to the Bosporus, said Al Jazeera.
According to The New York Times, Moscow has now bombed Ukrainian ports about twice a day since ending the deal.
“In two or three months, we may not have a single port left,” said Natalia Humeniuk, a Ukrainian military spokeswoman.
Russia declined to renew their participation in the Black Sea Trade Deal between Russia and Ukraine that had been brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in 2022, said Reuters.
Russia told the International Maritime Organization (IMO), under the United Nations, that “proactive necessary actions and response measures to neutralize threats posed by the Kiev regime in the area will be taken.” Russia also posted via the Telegram messaging app Wednesday that southeastern and northwestern areas of the Black Sea’s international waters would be unsafe for navigation.
As Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters, the Black Sea Deal was brokered last July to combat the global food crisis worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western countries of using the Black Sea grain deal for their own means, but said Russia would reapply itself to the agreement if its own requirements for its exports were upheld.
Moscow cited Ukraine’s failure to export more grain to poorer countries as one reason it pulled out of the deal, said the BBC.
However, the BBC cited the Council of the European Union in saying that 57% of the foodstuffs exported from Ukraine in the 2022-2023 year were shipped to developing countries, and said that Ukraine had supplied the World Food Program (WFP) with more than 80% of all its grain for humanitarian aid to countries suffering from drought, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan, as well as Afghanistan, Djibouti, and Yemen. The U.N. argued the deal has helped lower global food prices over 20%.
”Keeping Ukrainian grain flowing remains crucial for global food security,” wrote the Council of the European Union.
The two solidarity lanes created for the Black Sea deal and the Black Sea Grain Initiative “have notably contributed to lowering [global food] prices,” the Council wrote.
Not only is Ukrainian grain important for its previous buyers, Asia, it is now increasingly important for North Africa and the Middle East. Russia is disrupting a vast array of important networks and may eventually receive backlash, not only from an unforgiving Ukraine. Peace would be a better option than the situation that Moscow is escalating with Ukraine, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Russia’s withdrawal last Monday from the Black Sea deal also largely ended a U.N.-Russian pact that agreed to help Russian food and fertilizer exports reach world markets, said Reuters. Under the agreement, the U.N. said Moscow no longer is fulfilling its pledge to “facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers” from Ukrainian Black Sea Ports.
Ukraine has upped its requests for increased military aid from the west because of Russia’s increased attacks on Ukrainian ports. Russian efforts that are being expended against Ukraine would be better used in strengthening its own trade industry with Black Sea countries, allowing prosperity in the region and Russia as well. Forgiveness of Russia in the region, however, may take an increasingly long amount of time.
Reuters cited that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “We will continue whatever we can do to ensure that global markets have access to Ukrainian and Russian food as well as fertilizer.” Hopefully these access lanes through the Black Sea can continue in some way, for the benefit of both Russia and Ukraine.
Elizabeth SykesElizabeth is a correspondent intern for the OWP. She has a major in Media and Cultural Studies from Macalester College and previously worked for the school newspaper. She is now traveling the world teaching English as a second language in Romania and Vietnam. Topics of special interest to her include Central and Eastern European relations and conflict resolution. Latest posts by Elizabeth Sykes (see all)
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