Russia Agrees to Participate in Black Sea Grain Corridor Once More
Russia announced today that it would resume its participation in the gain deal permitting bulkers to transport foodstuffs from three Ukrainian ports. The reversal came four days after Russia said it was suspending its participation accusing Ukraine and the west of using the humanitarian corridor to launch attacks on occupied Crimea.
Announcement of the decision came from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan after he spoke with Russian officials and was later confirmed in a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry. “The Russian Federation considers that the guarantees received at the moment seem sufficient and resumes the implementation of the agreement,” they said reporting that Ukraine had committed to keeping the corridor neutral.
President Vladimir Putin had earlier said that Russia could no longer guarantee the safety of the vessels transporting the exports from Ukraine. He had criticized the agreement saying that the food was not going to impoverished nations short on critical supplies. Turkey’s president responded today saying that the focus of future shipments would be on the world’s poorest countries most in need of food supplies.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure highlighted that Ukraine is the second-largest wheat supplier to Turkey, after Russia. To date, they said, over 380 ships have departed to some 37 countries, transporting nearly 10 million tons of cargo from Ukrainian ports. Kenya, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Somalia they said are particularly dependent on Ukrainian grain shipments.
UN officials welcomed Russia’s renewed participation in the program and the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) based in Istanbul. Yesterday they had announced that they were suspending shipments for November 2 while the program’s coordinator said he believed shipments would resume on Thursday.
The corridor is reported to have reopened as of mid-day on Wednesday but no ships were expected to sail until tomorrow. The JCC previously reported that over 100 ships were registered and waiting for inspections. Yesterday, they continued inspections for outbound ships that had reached Turkey, while inbound operations to Ukraine were paused.
Analysts were quick to point out that today’s agreement with Russia was however only a short-term solution. In addition to Putin’s threat to again suspend the operation if the guarantee was not met, the original agreement brokered by the UN with help from Turkey was for 120 days. It is due to expire on November 19. Reports indicate that quiet negotiations are ongoing to extend or possibly expand the deal. Russia has repeatedly said it wants greater access for its exports of grain and fertilizer as part of any further agreement.