Ukraine and Russia sign deals to restart essential grain shipments
United Nations – Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement in Turkey on Friday morning, pledging to ship millions of tons of essential grain supplies out of Ukraine’s long-blocked southern ports. Russia has blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since its all-out invasion of the country on February 24, drawing accusations from the US and Europe that President Vladimir Putin has been arming food.
Russian food and fertilizers, which the Putin regime says it has been unable to ship due to sanctions imposed on its country over the Ukraine war, can also be exported under the deal, which was brokered and co-signed by the Turkish government and the Turkish government become United Nations.
Although the deal signed at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace on Friday does not address the ongoing war in Ukraine, it is hoped to alleviate itby increasing supply and helping to lower the rising cost of staple foods around the world.
The agreement provides for the establishment of safe shipping corridors to allow the grain to pass through the heavily mined waters of the Black Sea. It includes commitments by both Russia and Ukraine not to attack ships identified under the initiative passing through the sea corridors and to allow inspections of the ships by Turkey.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate agreements with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. The ceremony was witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Today there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” Guterres said. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of opportunity, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
A sticking point that had held up an agreement in weeks of intense negotiations was the question of which country would actually get the grain from Ukraine’s ports. Under the deal, Ukraine will partially operate the grain carriers – until they reach international waters – and other countries will then direct exports to Istanbul for onward shipment elsewhere.
In a pre-signing briefing early Friday, two senior UN officials explained the underpinnings of the deal and said that one of the first steps after signing would be for the UN and Turkey to send observers to Ukraine’s ports “to… to be clear what is protected and is what is provided under this Agreement”
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week that “some countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia typically harvest up to 75 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine”. Russia started its war citing World Bank data.
Ukraine in particular, she said, “was the breadbasket for the developing world.”
“We estimate that more than 20 million tons of grain are trapped in silos and ships and at risk of rotting in and around Ukraine’s ports,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “As long as Putin continues his war in Ukraine, millions and millions of people around the world will not know when or where they will get their next meal.”
CBS News has witnessed firsthand both the lockdown and its impact on the world’s hungriest people. Correspondent Chris Livesaythis summer as it prepared for a possible Russian attack, and correspondent Debora Patta where a distraught woman said she could not afford to eat and had heard that the World Food Program “has stopped aid because the white people are at war”.
The faltering grain supply has actually exacerbated South Sudan’s food crisis, helping the cost of staple foods in the country skyrocket by nearly 100%. WFP Acting Country Director in South Sudan Adeyinka Badejo told Patta that the organization had to halt aid to nearly 2 million people in the country because of rising fuel and food costs, largely due to the war in Ukraine.
Russia denies blocking grain shipments from Ukrainian ports and accuses the country of halting maritime traffic by mining in its own waters. When Livesay visited Odessa, he reported that the coastal waters were riddled with both Ukrainian and Russian sea mines and that Ukraine has admitted to mining its waters to prevent Russian attacks from the sea. Russia also claims US and European Union sanctions are preventing shipments of Russian food and fertilizer, exacerbating the food crisis.
In the first round of talks in Istanbul in mid-July, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that no agreement would be possible without guarantees for the control of ships to prevent attempts to smuggle arms into Ukraine. This issue is addressed in the agreement through the establishment of a “control center” in Istanbul to manage exports.
The US and the European Union, which are not parties to the deal, have indicated that the sanctions they have imposed on Russia over the war do not restrict Russia’s sales of food or fertilizer. After the first round of talks, the US and EU wrote to shipping and insurance companies to stress that sales related to the export of Russian food and fertilizer would not violate the sanctions.
While the deal signed in Turkey brought relief to many at the United Nations, Biden administration officials warned that actual implementation would be difficult and expressed concern over whether Russia would live up to its commitments.
“Our focus now is on holding Russia accountable for implementing this deal and allowing Ukrainian grain to enter world markets,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday.
Ukraine also has concerns.
“The Ukrainian delegation supports only those decisions that guarantee the security of Ukraine, especially in the regions near ports; Security issues are the most difficult aspects,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told CBS News.
Century Foundation UN expert Stephen Schlesinger commended the secretary-general for pushing to secure the grain deal, but called it “a sideshow” and stressed that “it will not end the war”.
However, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the secretary-general, told reporters on Thursday that the deal would at least offer hope that “we can save potentially hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people from the price of food being out of their reach.” “