After terminating a global grain export agreement, Russia attacks a grain terminal in Ukraine. A day after Moscow pulled out of a UN-backed deal to allow grain exports, Russia attacked Ukrainian ports on 18 July.
Russia launched missiles and drones on Odesa and Mykolayiv
In retaliation for assaults by Ukrainian seaborne drones that destroyed its road Crimean bridge to the annexed peninsula, Russia launched a barrage of missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s ports, described as “mass revenge strikes.”
The United Nations warned that Moscow’s withdrawal from a one-year-old grain export arrangement may lead to starvation worldwide shortly after the Crimean Bridge was struck.
According to Ukraine’s southern operational military command, after a Russian missile attack falling debris and blast waves in Odesa, the key port for Ukraine, destroyed several homes and other port equipment. According to local authorities, another harbour city, Mykolaiv, had a significant fire, UkrInform reported.
“Further proof that country-terrorist wants to endanger lives of 400 mln people” – Yermak
Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential staff, stated that the Russian attacks on ports are “further proof that the country-terrorist wants to endanger the lives of 400 million people in various countries that depend on Ukrainian food exports.”
According to the Ukrainian air force, six Russian Kalibr missiles and 31 out of 36 drones were shot down. Moscow claimed to have stopped a Ukrainian drone attack on Crimea, preventing significant ground damage and reopening one lane of traffic on the Crimea bridge.
Since the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last month, the Ukrainian Army has retaken a few villages in the south and the area around Bakhmut’s destroyed town in the east. Still, it has not yet attempted to make a significant advance through fiercely contested Russian lines.
Grain deal termination: reactions
One of the few diplomatic victories of the conflict was the Black Sea grain export agreement that Turkey and the UN negotiated a year ago. At the time, it ended a de facto Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports and prevented a global food crisis.
Russia and Ukraine are two of the largest exporters of grains and other foods in the world. The world’s poorest nations would be severely hurt if Ukrainian grain was once more barred from the market.
“Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.
The Kremlin claimed that there was no connection between the attack and its decision to halt the grain agreement because its requests to implement a parallel accord loosening regulations for its own food and fertilizer exports were not met.
“Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements concerning Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated.
Russia claims it might rejoin the grain agreement, but only if limits governing its exports of food and fertilizer are relaxed. In the West, that is regarded as an effort to use food supply as leverage to lessen financial restrictions, which already allow for exceptions to allow Russia to sell food.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, has requested that the grain agreement go on without Russia’s involvement, essentially enlisting Turkey’s support to counter the Russian blockade. The deal’s promoter, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, asserts that he believes Putin can be persuaded to return.
Food security harmed
In Washington, the White House said Russia’s suspension of the pact “will worsen food security and harm millions”, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it unconscionable.
Without Russia’s participation, any attempt to resume Ukrainian grain supplies would likely depend on insurance firms agreeing to give coverage.
The risk of trying to transport grain from Ukraine without Russian security guarantees, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who also claimed that Ukraine uses the seas for military purposes.
At the same time, Russia has been accused of using blackmail over the grain deal to obtain an easing of sanctions adopted against Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
Impact in Africa
Because Ukraine and Russia are some of the top exporters of grains and other supplies, any disruption might increase food prices worldwide.
The International Rescue Committee’s emergency director in East Africa, Shashwat Saraf, said that the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades would significantly impact Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.