Putin Threatens to Pull Out of Ukrainian Grain Shipping Agreement

The UN-chartered bulker Ikaria Angel departed Odesa on Friday, bound for Africa (Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure)

Published Sep 18, 2022 8:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

About 3.7 million tonnes of grain have been shipped out of Ukraine via the Black Sea safe passage corridor since its implementation in early August, according to Ukrainian authorities. 

The shipments include three vessels chartered by the UN World Food Progam carrying grain to needy populations in Africa and the Middle East. The UN-chartered bulker Ikaria Angel departed Odesa on Friday, bound for Africa.

The majority of shipments made so far have headed for European markets, and just 17 percent of total exports have been dispatched to Africa. This ratio has drawn criticism from the Russian government, which has falsely accused EU nations of monopolizing Ukraine's food exports at a time when high grain prices are putting significant stress on low-income countries. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to pull out of the deal over this division in shipments, claiming that Russia was deceived about the purpose of the agreement. His threat could provide him with diplomatic leverage, and it has prompted a small flurry of conversations with European powers. The Carnegie Endowment for Peace notes that his threat to pull out of the grain agreement follows after new battlefield losses for Russia in the Kharkiv region, where Ukraine has launched a successful counteroffensive. 

Shipments out of Ukraine picked up on Sunday when 10 vessels headed out to sea from Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny, bound for Asia, Africa and Europe. The vessels were carrying a total of about 170,000 tonnes of grain, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Infrastructure. Previously, departures have generally averaged some four to six vessels per day. 

Photos released on social media show that one of the vessels making the outbound transit was a ro/ro freighter, marking a rare release of a non-bulk cargo vessel through the Russian blockade. Dozens of ships were trapped in Ukraine at the start of the Russian invasion, and to date, only vessels carrying food cargoes have been permitted to leave.