The move that has now been completed followed talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday and subsequent consultations with their respective defense ministers. In addition, there were written assurances from Ukraine that the humanitarian corridor that had been created and the ports would be used only for the export of food. That is enough at the moment to fulfill the agreement, he said in Moscow. Transport would continue on Wednesday, Erdogan said.
However, Putin did not rule out withdrawing the grain deal again during the day in case there are violations from a Russian point of view. “Russia reserves the right to withdraw from these agreements if the guarantees are violated by Ukraine,” Putin said in a videoconference with the National Security Council on Wednesday. Even if the agreement is withdrawn, Russia is willing to allow grain deliveries destined for the poorest countries to pass through the agreed corridor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the resumption of the grain deal as a significant diplomatic outcome. “Russian blackmail led to nothing,” Zelenskyy said in his video speech late on Wednesday. In particular, he highlighted the work of UN and Turkey mediators and other partners. “Once again, everyone saw that in our region there is only one threat to global food security, and that is the Russian Federation and no one else,” he emphasized.
Even before the Russian attack on Ukraine began, Russia was demanding US security guarantees, he said. Now, after more than eight months of war, the Kremlin is demanding security guarantees from Ukraine. “These are really noticeable changes,” Zelenskyy said. “It shows the failure of Russian aggression and how strong you and I are if we stick together.”
Zelenskyy also accused Russia of threatening food exports. A Russian fighter jet fired two cruise missiles over the Black Sea corridor to transport grain. This happens almost every day, according to the president.
Russia surprisingly suspended a deal to transport Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports on Saturday after the drone struck the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea. According to the Defense Ministry in Moscow, the reason was the “terrorist attacks” on the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
The Ministry accused the British Navy of having given the instructions to bomb the peninsula with drones. According to Russian information, a minesweeper was also damaged. According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British ambassador will be summoned. Britain rejected the charges.
For weeks, Russia had been threatening a possible suspension of the grain deal, which has brought Ukrainian food back to the world market since the summer. In recent days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has complained that Russia is blocking the passage of ships loaded with grain.
He highlighted the importance of these shipments in the fight against hunger in the world. While the war continues to hamper exports, Zelenskyi said recently that Ukraine has exported nearly eight million tonnes of food by sea since the Grain Agreement came into effect. 60 percent of the amount went to Africa and Asia.
In July, Russia, mediated by the United Nations (UN) and Turkey, agreed to export grain, but always threatened to let the four-month agreement burst. Moscow has long complained that part of the summer deal is not being implemented. In the deal, Russia agreed to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports for grain exports, but in return demanded facilitation for its own export of fertilizer and food. Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters, earning billions from exports.
The World Food Program (WFP) sees Russia’s return to the grain deal as good news for the world’s hungry. “For millions of people in need around the world, these ships are a beacon of hope that can save lives,” said Martin Frick, head of the UN office in Berlin. Since signing the agreement last summer, WFP has shipped more than 220,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukrainian ports to hungry people in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen. Another 160,000 tonnes were soon to follow.
The Ukrainian government thanked Turkey and the UN for their role in Russia’s decision to resume the agreement. Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov particularly highlighted the efforts of Turkish President Erdogan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Russia’s return to the grain deal was understood as an “end of blackmail” by Moscow. “From a geopolitical perspective, what happened that day puts a point behind the many years of blackmail diplomacy that Russia has engaged in,” Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, wrote on Telegram on Wednesday. “They don’t know any other diplomacy there, which is why they are also losing in the modern world.”
Yermak has not commented on the Ukrainian commitments Moscow says it has received. According to Russian sources, Ukraine has given written assurances that it will not use the ports and maritime corridor to export grain across the Black Sea for military purposes.