Ukraine and Russia are preparing to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain | International

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Ukraine and Russia are meeting this Thursday in Istanbul to take a step that could lead to the end of the blockade on the export of Ukrainian cereals. Both countries must agree to create a corridor in the Black Sea, now guarded by Russian frigates, to get grain trapped in ports to global markets without being attacked by Russian frigates. The pact, partially reached last week, should be signed this Thursday with the mediation of Turkey and the UN. Its text establishes that Ukraine will be able to recover the exit of its ships to the sea under the protection of its naval frigates and thus unlock up to 22 million tons of grain.

Russia agrees not to attack ships and makes it a condition that commercial ships are not used for war purposes, such as the introduction of weapons into the country. Turkey and the UN, for their part, will be the monitors of the treaty, carrying out inspections of ships entering and leaving. But it is also to be expected that Moscow, as its president, Vladimir Putin, advanced, will demand in return that the sanctions imposed by the international community be softened. kyiv clarifies, however, that it will sign the agreement with Turkey and the UN, but not with Russia.

“Ukraine does not sign any agreement with Russia, but with Turkey and the UN, with which we assume obligations,” Mikhailo Podoliak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter. The kyiv representative added that Russia, for its part, reaches a minor pact with Ankara and the UN. “There will be no transport escorted by Russian ships and there will be no presence of representatives of Moscow in our ports. In the event of any provocation, there will be an immediate military response,” Podoliak added.

The signing is expected to be attended by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, who confirmed on Wednesday through a statement his attendance at the event, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. local time (one hour less in Spanish peninsular time). The head of the United Nations has been clear when it comes to warning about the consequences of blocking tons of grain and the famine that this can bring to developing countries. For this reason, he was satisfied that the negotiations, if they result in white smoke, end in a satisfactory manner for all parties, including the international community.

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Turkey has also been optimistic. The Eurasian country, a mediator in the conflict between kyiv and Moscow, has already seated Ukrainian and Russian delegations at the same table on several occasions since the war began, but had never achieved any substantial progress towards peace: the The first attempts were aimed at achieving a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors, while this one is aimed at alleviating hunger. If the unblocking is signed, it would be the first time that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has agreed between the two opposing countries. Vladimir Putin, in fact, already thanked his Turkish counterpart for his efforts at the Tehran summit earlier this week.

And Ukraine, the most affected, can see this Thursday the end of the veto on its cereal exports, at least on paper, since kyiv is skeptical about the real application of the agreement’s commitments. The Ukrainian delegation has already advanced that it is not just coming to stamp a signature. The statement from the kyiv Foreign Ministry clearly alludes to “negotiations”, implying that the final signing has not yet been decided. In the same statement, it is stated, yes, that “after the negotiations there may be the signing of a document that will contain the obligations of the parties with respect to the safe operation of the export routes in the Black Sea.”

a key question

The framework of the Ukrainian grain issue is as long as this war, triggered by the Russian invasion on February 24. As bombs and artillery began to rain down not only on the country’s towns and cities, but also on wheat fields and storage silos, many farmers feared that their crops would be swallowed up by the war and produce would not be able to survive. reach global markets, as has been the case up to now. Ukraine, before the invasion, provided the world markets with 10% of wheat, 16% of corn and approximately half of sunflower oil. But while the war was unfolding on the mainland, the Russian frigates were taking position in the Black Sea, around the Ukrainian coast. And faced with the danger of an attack by sea on key coastal cities, such as Odessa, kyiv mined the waters of the Black Sea and put a stop to the Russian advance along that route. The consequence was that ships could not enter or leave the area. And this, of course, included commercial ships, many of them moored in and around the largest Ukrainian port, Odessa.

“I think we have reached the limit. The most we can export is around 2 million tonnes a month,” Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine’s agriculture minister, told an International Grains Council conference in London in June. And the figure, although it represents a considerable amount, is tiny compared to what Ukraine provided to the world before Putin tried to bring the country under his rule. Because, before February 24, the former Soviet republic could export up to 6 million tons of grain per month. Since shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports were halted, more than 20 million tons of grain are sitting in silos across the country or waiting on ships, ready to sail. Ukraine, the fourth largest grain exporter in the world, goes to Istanbul this Thursday with its hands tied by war, time against it and the hope of reaching an agreement with its executioner to continue selling its grain and supplying the international community.

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