Fate of the “grain corridor”: can Russia withdraw from the agreement?

Food is one of the tools that Russian terrorists use to try to blackmail the civilized world, attempting to force it to accept the end of the war in Ukraine on Russian terms. Indeed, Ukrainian grain and other food exports are very important to many countries around the world. However, currently, the fate of the “grain corridor” — an agreement that allows Ukrainian food to be exported from Odesa despite the war — hangs by a thread due to the actions of Russians. We will explain whether Russia can withdraw from the agreement and what Ukraine and its allies can do in this case.

Grain corridor of life

Despite Ukraine’s insistence on the indefinite nature of the grain agreement, and amidst constant threats from Russia to suspend its participation, the agreement continues to be extended for a certain period whenever necessary.

In particular, on March 18, 2023, Ukraine announced the extension of the grain agreement. According to Ukraine, the contract was extended for 120 days, while Russia claimed that the extension only applied for 60 days. Prior to this, during February, Russia obstructed the implementation of the agreement in various ways, such as delaying court inspections.

However, just a month after the extension of the agreement, on April 17, the press service of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine reported that the grain agreement was under threat of collapse. Starting from April 10, Russian “inspectors” unilaterally suspended the inspection of vessels loaded with Ukrainian grain and heading through the Bosporus. As a result, the ships started to accumulate in the strait, and Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov had to hastily fly to Turkey for negotiations.

The United States has called Russian actions a threat to global food security and a blatant violation of the provisions of the grain agreement.

On April 19, Ukraine and Turkey announced that the operation of the grain corridor was being resumed. Russia’s opinion on this matter was not voiced. On April 23, the G7 countries stated that the grain agreement should continue to work in order to safeguard the food security of import-dependent nations. However, on April 26, Russian “inspectors” once again deliberately blocked the operation of the grain corridor, refusing to coordinate the inspection of vessels carrying grain.

Spring escalation in the Kremlin

Starting from March 20, Russia has been bombarding the world with hysterical statements that it will suspend its participation in the grain agreement if the “conditions of Russia” are not met. For example, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that Russia unilaterally decided to reduce the extension period of the agreement from 120 days to 60 days, and that Russia may withdraw from the agreement starting from May 18.

See also: World museums recognize Ukrainian art, which was considered Russian for a long time. Art historian Oksana Semenik is fighting for this

The “conditions” put forward in the Kremlin are as follows:

  • Restoration of the operation of the ammonia pipeline “Tolyatti-Odesa.”
  • Restoration of access for the Russian “Rosselkhozbank” to the SWIFT system from which it was disconnected due to sanctions.
  • Resumption of the supply of agricultural machinery spare parts to Russia and the restoration of service maintenance for foreign agricultural machinery in Russia.
  • Lift sanctions that prevent the insurance and reinsurance of vessels carrying Russian food and fertilizers, granting access to European ports for such vessels.
  • Unlocking foreign assets and accounts of Russian companies engaged in the transportation of fertilizers and food.

However, it seems that the West is not inclined to listen to the hysteria of the Kremlin. Perhaps that is why on April 18, the press secretary of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, was brought onto the stage. “The talking head” on behalf of the Kremlin stated that circumstances supposedly dictate that Russia will not continue the grain agreement, and as a result, both Ukrainian and Russian grain could allegedly disappear from the world markets.

At the same time, Russia complains that none of the Russian conditions have been met. For example, it claims that Russian grain is allegedly not being allowed through the straits for further sale. However, it is unclear which grain Russians are referring to; if it is indeed Russian grain, it is being allowed through. If they are referring to grain that Russian terrorists have stolen in Ukraine, then it is not surprising that such shipments can be “unpacked.”

Russian threats against the grain agreement escalated to a new level after several Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) targeted the bay of temporarily occupied Sevastopol early in the morning on April 24. Russia immediately claimed that the UAVs were supposedly launched from the water area designated for the grain corridor. In response, the General Staff of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine referred to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s statements as deceitful manipulation and propaganda, stating that Ukraine only uses the grain corridor for grain exports.

It is worth noting that this is not the first accusation from Russia against Ukraine regarding the alleged use of the grain corridor for attacks on the temporarily occupied Crimea. Russian terrorists previously accused Kyiv of this in 2022 when the first attacks by maritime UAVs on the waters near occupied Sevastopol began. Back then, the grain agreement was also under threat due to Russian blackmail, as Russians stated that they were “withdrawing from the grain agreement.”

However, Russia was quickly forced to retract its statements. Ukraine, Turkey, and several civilized countries decided that the agreement should be extended. Moreover, the inspection of grain-carrying vessels proceeded much faster without Russia’s involvement. Taking all these factors into account, Moscow had no choice but to make a good move after playing a bad game and make another “gesture of goodwill.”

See also: The history of Scythian gold from Melitopol, which Ukrainians found, then buried, and could not save from Russia

Options for action

So, if we imagine that Russian terrorists do indeed withdraw from the grain agreement after May 18 — because it is quite evident that nobody intends to comply with the conditions set by the Kremlin — what can Ukraine and its allies do in this case?

Politico newspaper suggests that if Russia withdraws from the grain agreement after May 18, Russian military ships may engage in piracy in the Black Sea, attacking ships carrying grain. This insinuation is mentioned in a letter sent by Russia to the Black Sea Grain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre.

“This appeared to be a veiled threat that Russian military forces may initiate attacks on commercial vessels in the Black Sea after this date, no longer bound by the rules of safe passage stipulated in the agreement,” the newspaper writes.

Therefore, allied countries do not have many options:

  1. Comply with the conditions imposed by Russia. Accepting these conditions would deal a serious blow to the anti-Russian sanctions and go against the interests of both Ukraine and Western countries. Moreover, Russian appetites increase each time the Kremlin realizes that its blackmail has been successful.
  2. Deploying combat ships in the Black Sea and forming convoys of grain carriers to protect vessels carrying food from Russian pirates, while relying on Ukrainian and allied anti-ship coastal defense. This option is risky because it could potentially lead to a military clash between NATO, the United States, and Russia’s ships at any moment, an outcome that the North Atlantic Alliance actively avoids. Furthermore, there is another obstacle in the form of the Montreux Convention — a document that explicitly prohibits the presence of combat ships from non-Black Sea states in the waters of the Black Sea beyond 21 days from their entry. It is highly unlikely that Turkey, which plays the role of a mediator between Russia and Western countries, would not only allow NATO and the United States to violate this Convention but also permit any combat ships to enter the Black Sea or provide its own ships for convoy protection.
  3. Leave everything as it is. This option risks the loss of face for NATO; the Alliance will be unable to ensure the safety of navigation in the Black Sea, where Russian terrorists will engage in piracy. It will cause significant damage to Ukraine’s economic interests. Even if the coastal defense of the Ukrainian Navy can protect the grain carriers within its zone of responsibility, sending Russian pirates as guests to the cruiser Moskva (the missile cruiser which was severely damaged by 2 Neptune anti-ship missiles of the Ukrainian Naval Forces) the commercial vessels will remain defenseless throughout the rest of their journey.
  4. Force Russia to extend the grain agreement. Currently, there is no understanding of how this can be achieved, but it is the only option that will prevent succumbing to Russia’s demands and avoid direct military clashes between Russian and NATO ships.

In the meantime, in the evening of April 26, it was reported that the US government allowed one of the largest US banks, JPMorgan Chase, to process payments for the sanctioned Russian bank Rosselkhozbank in order to address issues with the export of Russian grain. The US bank received government guarantees that it would not be penalized for sanctions violations. JPMorgan Chase itself declined to provide any comments to the media.

Overall, it is still unclear what decisions the allies will ultimately make to secure the export of Ukrainian grain and the grain corridor.

Originally posted by Anton Korzh on Slovo i Dilo. Translated and edited by the UaPosition – Ukrainian news and analytics website

See also: Role of theatrical art during wartime

Avatar photo


An independent media focused on Ukraine.
Follow us on social media:

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!