Z12 freighters with more than 354,000 tons of Ukrainian agricultural products on board are said to have left the three Ukrainian ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne on Monday. This was announced by the Ukrainian Ministry of Transport.
Although Russia on Saturday suspended the agreement signed at the end of July to export Ukrainian grain through a humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea, the delegations of the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine in the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) on Monday, as in the past three months, Coordinated routes for cargo ships to transport grain from Ukrainian ports. Four other ships were inspected by JCC inspectors on Sunday evening and are now allowed to head for Ukrainian ports, the Ukrainian government said.
Since the end of July in Istanbul, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN have been implementing the agreement at the JCC, which would expire on November 19 if the four sides do not agree on an extension. From Kyiv and Istanbul it was said that representatives of Turkey and the UN were negotiating with the Russian delegation about a continuation of the “grain initiative”. It was fitting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who played a key role in bringing about the “deal” in July, said on Monday that work on it was continuing, regardless of the Russian decision.
Russia is in contact with Turkey and the UN
Moscow reacted to the insubordination with a barely disguised threat: Without Russia’s participation, the export of the grain would hardly be possible, said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin. If Russia says that it is impossible to “guarantee the safety of shipping in the designated areas” – that is, the corridor used for exports – the agreement takes on “a different character: much more risky, more dangerous and less guaranteed,” Peskov said .
Russia has officially suspended the deal over an air and sea drone attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet base at Sevastopol in annexed Crimea. The Defense Ministry said the Black Sea Fleet – which has been blockading Ukrainian ports since the spring and is involved in the particularly intense shelling of Ukrainian targets at the moment – is being used to secure grain shipments.
Peskov now accused Ukraine of “undermining an atmosphere of security” and thus threatening the agreement. Contacts with Turkey and the UN continued, Putin’s spokesman emphasized; At the weekend he had said that no contacts with Erdogan were planned at the moment.
There is some evidence that contacts are desired and that Russia wants to use the topic of grain – and ultimately hunger – as a lever to keep the conversation going. However, the suspension of the agreement thwarts Putin’s efforts to pose as the advocate of countries in Africa, for example, that want a “new world order”. Rising grain prices are fatal for them, as is Russia’s offer to fill gaps with its own grain (which, however, according to media research partly stolen from the Ukraine), come up against logistical hurdles, probably also because Western companies refuse to work with Russian market participants.
Russia faces a dilemma
At a summit in Uzbekistan in mid-September, Putin said at a summit in Uzbekistan in mid-September that Russia was ready to “develop To hand over 300,000 tons of Russian fertilizers “for free”.
Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev (a son of Putin’s companion and Secretary of the National Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev) followed up on state television on Sunday: Russia, which “has always been and remains a reliable partner”, is ready to help “the poorest countries” in the coming years four months to deliver 500,000 tons of grain “free of charge”. Patrushev also praised Turkey as “our reliable partner”. Fulfillment of the promises of both Putin and Patrushev have not yet become known.
However, the advances show the dilemma that Russia is facing: do all you can to harm Ukraine without alienating the sometimes sought-after (Africa) and sometimes difficult (Turkey) partners. The recent vote on a resolution at the UN General Assembly in New York showed that Putin has not yet succeeded in establishing himself as the new leader of the Global South: 143 states voted in favor of the annexation of further Ukrainian territories by Russia support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including many African ones; even countries with a Russian presence such as Mali and the Central African Republic chose an abstention (votes against came only from Russia itself, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Nicaragua).
Putin is currently having to decide whether to attend the G-20 summit in Indonesia in mid-November or not, for example because he could appear there in isolation. The discussion about the grain agreement could be an attempt to determine a topic for the summit in advance – and thus create a face-saving framework for a possible cancellation from the Kremlin’s point of view.