The Russian Federation will lose the game that it itself started in the Black Sea: the prospects for a new grain deal were assessed by experts

Ukrainians clean up the territory after the Russian rocket attack on grain storage facilities near Odesa in July 2023. Photo:

Ukrainian farmers export grain abroad through the Danube ports, after Russia unilaterally withdrew from the grain agreement and blocked the export corridor in the Black Sea. But the new route increases the cost of each ton of grain by 60-70 dollars, and the total losses of agricultural enterprises are estimated at 10 billion euros.

In addition, Russia continues to attack Ukraine’s sweat infrastructure.

Ukraine suffers losses

In 2022, the Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed by Ukraine, the UN and Turkey, on the one hand, and Russia, the UN and Turkey, on the other.

The Kremlin said it no longer intends to participate in the grain agreement, which expired on July 17. Russia “reinforced” its position of withdrawing from the agreement by firing rockets at the infrastructure of the Odessa Commercial Sea Port.

Further, the Russian Federation attacked the Odessa region with strike drones on the night of August 2. As a result of the attack, fires broke out at the objects of the port and industrial infrastructure of the region, and the elevator was damaged.

On August 22, as a result of a night attack on the ports of the Danube, 13 thousand tons of grain were destroyed, said the Minister for the Development of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Olexander Kubrakov.

“13,000 tons of grain were destroyed by Russia as a result of the Shahid attack on the port of Izmail. Several private grain terminals and warehouses, cargo infrastructure were damaged at once. Agricultural products were destined for Egypt and Romania,” he wrote on Telegram.

The minister added that Russia systematically hits grain tanks and warehouses in order to stop agricultural exports.

“Only this night (August 22, – ed.) The export capacity of the port of Izmail was reduced by 15%, before that there was the port of Reni and 35 thousand tons of grain destroyed there. Today is the eighth attack on the port infrastructure after Russia’s withdrawal from the grain initiative,” Kubrakov said.

According to him, in general, 270 thousand tons of grain were destroyed during the month of attacks on ports.

At the same time, the Russian Federation intends to return to the grain deal if a number of its conditions are met. In the meantime, she intends to inspect dry cargo ships going by the Black Sea.

Agrarians of Ukraine are looking for new ways to deliver grain

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as part of his participation in the Ukraine-Balkans summit in Athens, said that Ukraine is ready to continue to remain a guarantor of global food security. Kyiv is interested in finding new ways to supply food to world markets. Croatia can become a new partner, which has confirmed its readiness to provide ports on the Danube and in the Adriatic Sea for the transportation of Ukrainian grain.

In parallel, Kyiv is negotiating with other countries. Among them are Moldova and Lithuania.

In addition, Ukrainian farmers are asking for help from Lithuania in obtaining EU subsidies for the transportation of exported grain through Klaipeda and other European ports – in their opinion, only in this way will Ukraine be able to export the accumulated crop without loss.

The most important thing for Ukrainian farmers, who cannot export grain through the Black Sea, is for their products to reach the ports of Europe. But this is impossible without subsidies, said Andriy Dikun, chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council.

“The most important thing for us is to get to the sea, because there is the largest throughput. (…) Work with the Baltic States and that will be enough. Only on condition that the “green” corridor will work, transport subsidies will work, then the whole system will work, because today, after calculating the losses from the existing logistics, it does not work. It exists, but it is very expensive,” Dikun said at a press conference in the Seimas of Lithuania.

Without subsidies, it is unprofitable to export Ukrainian goods through European ports, experts say.

In addition to choosing new paths, food needs security guarantees from NATO countries.

“We have been talking for more than six months about the need to act through the UN and through NATO, through alternative ways to use the convoy. We must develop further cooperation with NATO, with Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania for the passage of ships. And the most important air defense is in Odessa, Nikolaev in order to preserve our port infrastructure,” said Oleksandr Gapon, head of the Ukrainian Agrarian Assembly NGO.

Russia is also looking for ways to sell Ukrainian grain

Meanwhile, information appeared that Russia, Turkey and Qatar are preparing a new trilateral grain agreement for the supply of Russian grain to African countries. This was reported by the German newspaper Bild, which has official correspondence between the Foreign Ministry and the embassies of Turkey and Russia.

It follows from the letters that in this agreement Turkey will act as an organizer, Qatar as a sponsor of supplies. As part of the new project, they plan to supply grain to poor countries, mainly to Africa.

In this agreement, the Russian Federation calls the grain its own, while it is clear that some of it is Ukrainian agricultural products stolen by the invaders in the occupied territories. As Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, reported, Russian invaders transport the main part of the stolen Ukrainian grain by road from Mariupol to Rostov-on-Don, and from there, in particular, to African countries.

“The grain that was harvested and stolen on the territory of the Donetsk region goes through the Mariupol port. The grain that was stolen from other regions of Ukraine, including the occupied Crimea, travels through Mariupol by transport, trucks of 20 and 40 tons are pulled to Rostov-on-Don,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan asks Russia to renew the previous agreement on the supply of Ukrainian grain. Ankara proposes to act under the auspices of the UN. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may visit Russia to discuss with Vladimir Putin the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This was reported by the NTV channel, citing sources in the Turkish presidential administration. The expected date of the trip is not called.

The future of the grain deal in the assessment of experts

Whether the international community will open the Black Sea for shipping despite the threats of Russia and what will be the final alternative to the grain agreement, the FREEDOM TV channel discussed:

  • Denys Marchuk, Deputy Head of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council;
  • Olga Trofimtseva, and. O. Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food (2019), ex-Ambassador at Large to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine;
  • Igor Petrenko, Doctor of Political Sciences, expert of the analytical center “United Ukraine”;
  • Volodymyr Volya, political scientist;
  • Jason Smart, American political strategist.

DENIS MARCHUK: There is every chance for grain export by the Black Sea from Ukrainian ports

— The whole world is interested in restoring the grain deal. We see statements from both the United States and Turkey, and the conference that took place in Saudi Arabia. The Arab world is in favor of making the grain initiative work. At the Russia-Africa summit, which was held in St. Petersburg, Africa said that it did not want any handouts [from the Russian Federation], but that the grain initiative should work, so that the world could receive products from Ukraine on time. And here diplomatic negotiations play a big role.

The situation will now play out on how Turkish President Erdogan will meet with President Putin of the aggressor country. Most likely, the outcome of the new agreement will depend on this negotiation process.

But in the business system, which is now actively discussing the possibility of deliveries through the Black Sea, they are convinced that in September, exports from the territory of Ukraine by the Black Sea will become a reality.

OLGA TROFIMTSEVA: The world needs to work on the security of food infrastructure

— It is clear that the Black Sea ports are the most efficient, cheapest and fastest way for us. The next most efficient route is the route along the Danube to Romania.

In July, 68% of our grains and oilseeds were exported from the ports of the Danube.

Romanian ports are the closest in terms of their infrastructural capabilities to the transshipment of such a large amount of cargo as grains and oilseeds.

I’m still cautiously optimistic, because the situation remains tense. But the fact that on August 16 the first vessel, the container ship JOSEPH SCHULTE (flag of Hong Kong), set off from the port of Odesa on August 16, we showed that the blockade really needs to be broken. Moreover, to break through with actions and show that it is impossible for one country to behave like a terrorist in a single area of the Black Sea.

As for the talks between Turkey and Russia, there are many other issues that will be discussed. But I would advise our Turkish colleagues to discuss with the Russian side precisely the question that shelling of commercial and peaceful infrastructure targets, even in Odessa, even on the Danube, is unacceptable, because this is really a critical moment.

It is necessary not only for the Turkish side, but also for our other partners to work on ensuring the security of these facilities so that the world can easily receive Ukrainian grain and not only grain.

IGOR PETRENKO: Danube is a good idea, but there is no need to abandon the Black Sea corridor

— We have already had precedents and it is empirically proven that the Russian Federation is not needed in a grain deal. When she refused to inspect ships [in the Bosporus] during the term of the agreement, it was the Turks who did it. Then we increased the throughput by 2-3 times, and everything was fine. And then the Russians quickly returned.

US statements that they will help look for alternative routes are good, of course. But all the same, the Danube is not rubber, and it will not work very quickly to rebuild ports to increase throughput.

The best idea is to provide a grain deal without the Russian Federation with the presence of states that will be ready to provide security or help Ukraine to do this.

After withdrawing from the agreement, Russia at first said that it would consider ships in the Black Sea as military targets, but then corrected itself and said that it would simply inspect them. We have a corresponding response from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine that any ships that will move to the Black Sea ports of the Russian Federation will be treated by us in the same way as legitimate military targets. And we have the ability to do so.

The position of the Americans, in my opinion, is a bit weak. We are grateful, of course, for the help in expanding alternative possibilities. But the best thing would be to show strength against Russia, since strength is the only thing Putin and most Putinists can see and hear.

The Russian Federation is already afraid of the Black Sea, as Ukraine has demonstrated that despite not having a strong navy, it has symmetrical responses that will be very painful for the Kremlin.

Therefore, the game that the Russians have now started will not do them any good. Already, deliveries of various cargoes through the Black Sea to Russian ports are significantly reduced, as companies will also think twice. Especially after the attack on the Russian tanker Olenegorsky miner, which took place with the help of surface Ukrainian drones.

VOLODYMYR VOLIA: Russia is unlikely to dare to stop dry cargo ships of influential states

— Putin withdrew from the grain initiative because for him military considerations turned out to be higher than the interests of strategic partners — China, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and African states. Let’s wait for the revealing moments, how Russia will stop dry cargo ships under the flags of Turkey, India, China and so on. Will there be such incidents?

I think that Putin decided to ignore the interests of his strategic partners, because he is afraid of losing the occupied territories in the south of Ukraine – the left bank of Kherson and the Zaporizhzhia region.

Because this would mean that Crimea would also be completely shot through by Ukrainian troops. And, in general, Russian occupational successes will continue to be curtailed by the domino effect.

The Kremlin withdrew from the grain deal in order to free its hands to deliver continuous strikes on the ports of southern Ukraine.

Putin is afraid of a threat from these territories to his troops on the left bank of the Dnieper in the Kherson region and in Crimea.

Ukraine can theoretically, together with foreign partners, including Russia’s strategic partners, bypass the format of maritime transportation with Russia’s participation. This may come from Ukrainian ports through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.

States that are interested in buying Ukrainian grain will ignore the bans or will pass to the territorial waters of Ukraine through the economic zones of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania. And then the important point is to what extent Ukraine will be able to ensure the safety of these vessels in ports, that is, in the waters of its ports and in general in the economic maritime zone, by military means.

Two points are needed: to strengthen missile defense in the Odesa region and drive the Russian fleet as far as possible – into the northwestern Black Sea, to the coast of Russia, to Novorossiysk, to the Sea of Azov.

It would be a very significant event if the Crimean bridge was finally damaged again. Or the Admiral Makarov would also have been so damaged that it could no longer launch missiles into Ukraine. Therefore, some changes are now taking place in the attitude of many neutral or conditionally neutral states to Russian warnings, threats of searches.

In neutral international waters, Russia cannot conduct searches, it does not have a mandate to do so. This is something that borders on piracy. Well, shelling will be an act of aggression against the state whose flag the ship is flying.

Therefore, we are waiting for significant moments – whether the states will want to arrange a demarche for Russia by sending their dry cargo ships to the Black Sea.

JASON SMART: Erdogan still influences Putin

— Erdogan can convince Putin about the grain initiative because he has huge opportunities to influence Russia. Of all NATO countries, Turkey has the greatest opportunity to talk to Moscow. We know that China is also angry at Russia for choosing not to support the grain initiative.

Russia considers the Black Sea its own, but this is a mistake. After all, Türkiye has always considered the Black Sea as its own.

Türkiye will defend its interests. And if she wants to send her warship to the Black Sea, Russia will not be able to stop her.

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