Ukraine shipped a record wartime volume of grain despite Russia withdrawing from an international agreement and warning that shipments without its consent would be “more risky” and “dangerous”.
Twelve ships left Ukrainian ports on Monday carrying 354,500 tons of agricultural products, the military administration in Odessa said – including 40,000 tons of grain on the Ikaria Angel, a ship bound for Ethiopia, where a serious drought affects millions of people.
It was the busiest in a single day since the grain export deal brokered by Turkey and the Black Sea in July.
The large convoy of ships set sail two days after Moscow suspended its role in the deal in retaliation for an aerial and submarine drone attack on Russiaof the Black Sea Fleet based in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia.
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Russian President Vladimir Poutine claimed that Ukrainian drones traveled to their targets through an internationally agreed zone intended to ensure the safety of vessels exporting grain from Ukrainian ports.
The threat of such a trajectory endangered Russian vessels patrolling the area as well as the grain ships themselves, Putin said, justifying his country’s suspension of its participation in the agreement which allowed exports .
Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the attack.
Mr Putin’s announcement cast doubt on grain transportation, with the Kremlin warning on Monday that without Russian security commitments the grain deal was “hardly achievable”.
Moscow said it was much more “risky, dangerous and unsecured”.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of ‘blackmailing the world with hunger’ by pulling out of the deal, while Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar urged his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a phone call to ‘reconsider’ the suspension .
The European Union has also urged Moscow to back down.
“Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the Black Sea agreement jeopardizes the main export route for cereals and fertilizers essential to face the world food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine. “said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
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Despite the fallout, a spokesman for Odessa’s military administration said the amount moved on Monday was just above the previous wartime record – 345,000 tons shipped on September 27.
“Today 12 ships left Ukrainian ports,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter on Monday.
“The @UN and Turkish delegations are providing 10 inspection teams to inspect 40 vessels aiming to fulfill the #BlackSeaGrainInitiative. This inspection plan has been accepted by the Ukrainian delegation. The Russian delegation has been informed.”
Tuesday at noon, three other departing ships had left Ukrainian ports after the agreement of the Ukrainian, Turkish and UN delegations at the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) based in Istanbul.
The UN coordinator for the grain initiative, Amir Abdulla, reportedly continued discussions with the three member states parties with the aim of resuming full participation.
The grain deal – which was due to expire on November 19 – guaranteed safe passage to and from Odessa and two other Ukrainian ports, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne.
This followed a blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which cut off the supply of grain and other food products around the world and drove up world prices.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain producers and the three-month-old program averted a global food crisis.
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