un point C of the agreement on the export of grain from Ukrainian ports there is a clear sentence: “The sides will not attack merchant ships, as well as other civilian ships and port facilities participating in this initiative.” A day after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu in Istanbul signed the document with these sentences, the Russian military fired rockets at the commercial port of Odessa on Saturday. This sufficiently characterizes the trustworthiness and contractual loyalty of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
That’s not new. Russia has honored and flouted agreements at will for many years. However, the attempt to get Moscow to sign agreements that commit it to something is not entirely pointless. This can also be seen in the current example: Without the Istanbul agreement, there would be no prospect of Ukraine being able to export grain across the Black Sea this year.
Now there is that chance. Because such agreements are not entirely without binding effect for Russia as long as it still flies the flag of international law in its propaganda. If it completely blocked the realization (instead of just teasing like on Saturday), Moscow would also dupe the mediators Turkey and the UN, which it may need again in other matters.
Moscow will continue to try to hinder Ukrainian grain exports. The Kremlin will probably also use propaganda smokescreens to accuse Ukraine of violating the agreement. The West must not then fall into the trap of calling on both sides to cooperate in balanced formulations. There is only a chance of relief in the food crisis from Ukrainian grain if every Russian violation of the agreement and every provocation immediately triggers a loud reaction.