Russia under pressure to keep grain deal alive
KYIV: Ships continued to bring grain from Ukrainian ports on Monday, suggesting Moscow had stopped short of re-imposing a blockade that might have caused world hunger, despite suspending its participation in a UN programme to safely export grain from the war zone.
On Monday, Turkey, Germany and France joined the chorus of voices calling on Moscow not to back out of the deal, even as air raid sirens blared across Ukraine and explosions rang out in Kyiv, sending black smoke into the sky as Russian missiles rained down in renewed air attacks.
Ukraine’s military said it had shot down 44 of 50 Russian missiles. But strikes on the pumping system for the capital left 80 percent of Kyiv without running water, authorities said, adding they hoped to restore it quickly. Two people were reported injured in the Kyiv region.
Still, the resumption of food exports from Ukrainian ports suggested that at least one dire scenario had been averted for now. International officials had feared that Moscow would reimpose a blockade on Ukrainian grain, after Russia announced on Saturday that it was suspending its role in the UN-backed programme that escorts cargo ships through the Black Sea.
Erdogan vows to continue efforts in face of Moscow’s ‘hesitation’; France and Germany looking at ways to transport food via land routes
“Civilian cargo ships can never be a military target or held hostage. The food must flow,” tweeted Amir Abdullah, the UN official who coordinates the programme.
Shortly after, Ukraine confirmed that 12 ships had set sail. The 354,500 tonnes of grain they carried was the most in a day since the programme began.
But it was not immediately clear whether shipments would be interrupted again beyond Monday, including whether insurers would allow further vessels to sail.
Pressure on Moscow
Ankara was categorical in its insistence that the Black Sea grain export deal continues, despite Russian hesitancy.
“Even if Russia behaves hesitantly because it didn’t receive the same benefits, we will continue decisively our efforts to serve humanity,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Monday.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also spoke to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar about the suspension of the deal.
“Questions about the suspension, by the Russian side, of the implementation of the agreement on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports as part of the ‘Black Sea Grain Initiative’ were discussed,” the Russian defence ministry said on Telegram.
Separately, both Paris and Berlin were working to boost Ukraine grain exports via land routes in conjunction with other EU states.
“The work we need to do at European level, we have often discussed it … is look to see whether, if it cannot pass through the Black Sea, it can instead pass through overland routes,” Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau told RMC Radio, citing routes through Romania and Poland.
The German transport ministry, in a presser, said that transportation by sea was the most efficient way of exporting grains out of Ukraine but land transport will be continued.
A foreign ministry spokesperson added: “There are still difficulties on the land route, even if we of course still try to use such possibilities, but most important is that transport by sea continues to remain possible and we are putting all our efforts into that.”
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2022