Ukraine cannot export its grain due to a maritime blockade organized by Russia. Kyiv is not convinced by the ongoing discussions between Moscow and Ankara to open safe corridors.
Between 20 and 25 million tons of grain are currently blocked in Ukraine due toa maritime blockade imposed by Russia on Black Sea portsat the risk of provoking a global food crisis in the coming weeks. Ukrainian ships are overcrowded and all storage capacity is used. But the situation seems inextricable. Ukraine now has only one way out, the port of Odessa, which it mined to prevent Russian troops from landing.
The war drags on 75 million tons of cereals are at risk of being blocked for autumn according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. More than 50 million people are threatened with famine.
Lavrov in Ankara
The UN has offered Turkey to supervise the establishment of safe corridors to allow grain exports from Ukraine. For the Turkish authorities, this plan is feasible, but requires the agreement of the two belligerents.
“We are ready to ensure the safety of ships leaving Ukrainian ports.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss the establishment of these corridors.yes “We are ready to ensure the safety of ships leaving Ukrainian ports,” he said during a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Ukraine did not participate in these discussions. Kyiv asks that its ships be escorted by the forces of various NATO countries, and not just the Turkish navy. Pending this guarantee, Ukraine refuses to demine the port of Odessa, claiming that Russia will take the opportunity to attack the city.
“The Russian Black Sea fleet will intend to withdraw to annexed Crimea. But as soon as we clear access to the port of Odessa, the Russian fleet will be there,” Odessa region administration spokesman Sergey Brachuk said on Wednesday.
“It seems like Russian propaganda to pretend they are not wrong.”
Since the beginning of this crisis, Russia tries to blame the maritime blockade on Ukraine to rehabilitate themselves on the international stage. However, it is his ships that are blockading the Black Sea ports as part of this war that began on February 24.
Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Ankara seems to fit this line of communication. “It sounds like Russian propaganda to pretend they’re not wrong,” says Sven Biscop, an advisor to the Egmont Institute and a professor at Ghent University. “I would be surprised if we can unblock the situation while the war is going on.”
“The maritime blockade organized by Russia is part of a strategy of economic strangulation of Ukraine.”
Ukraine was on its way to becoming, before the war, the world’s third largest exporter of wheat. Each month it exported 12% of the world’s wheat, 15% of its corn, and 50% of its sunflower oil. For Kyiv, the blockade of its ports is a disaster.
“The maritime blockade organized by Russia is aimed at strangling the Ukrainian economy,” says Alexander Mattelaer, a researcher at the Egmont Institute. “The port of Mariupol was destroyed, the port of Kherson fell into the hands of Russia, only the port of Odessa remains. The Ukrainian government is against the wall. With Moscow having lost the first phase of the war, the economic pressure exerted on Kyiv by blocking the ports could be even more effective in strangling Ukraine than military means..”
According to this expert, Moscow seeks to negotiate a relaxation of economic sanctions in exchange for the opening of maritime routes. “It is also an opportunity for Russia to present itself as a partner that would help get out of the crisis,” he continues.