First Ukraine Black Sea Grain Shipments Could Move In Days – U.N., Ukraine.

Russia, Ukraine, NATO member Turkey, and the United Nations announced a deal in the final week of July that will lead to the first resumed shipment of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports. The deal, brokered by the UN, will help tackle the global food crisis that has worsened since the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine, and officials say the first shipments could take place within days of the announcement. 

The agreement is intended to allow for the safe passage of grain shipment in and out of Ukrainian ports, which have been blockaded by Russian forces since the February invasion. However, Russia has blamed Ukraine for stalling shipments by mining the port waters. The deal has been hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that could restore Ukrainian grain shipments to pre-war levels. The deal also involves Ukrainian pilots guiding grain ships along safe channels in its territorial waters with a minesweeper vessel on hand as needed. Ships entering and leaving will be inspected in a Turkish port to allay Russian fears that Ukraine could be smuggling weapons.

Part of the deal is the establishment of the Joint Coordination Centre, which will monitor all ship movements and inspections. “We expect that the first ship may move within a few days. The Joint Coordination Centre will be liaising with the shipping industry and publishing detailed procedures for ships in the very near future,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. He continued that all four parties to the deal will have a presence in the Joint Coordination Centre at Turkey’s National Defense University in Istanbul. 

Russia and Ukraine are both major global wheat suppliers. Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor has sent food prices soaring, and stoked a global food crisis that the World Food Program says has forced approximately 47 million individuals into “acute hunger.” 

Senior Ukrainian government officials said in a news conference in Kyiv that they hoped the first grain shipment would be from the port of Chornomorsk in the same week as the deal was announced. They added that shipments could be made from all ports included under the deal within two weeks. 

Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov added that there were no limits on the amount of grain that could be exported and that resuming shipments would bring in at least $1 billion a month to Ukraine. He added that Russian strikes were the main risk to the deal, a particularly pertinent risk following the Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Odesa port just one day after the deal was struck. 

Russia said its forces had hit a Ukrainian warship and a weapons store in Odesa on the day of the missile strike. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there was nothing in the grain agreement that prevents Russia from attacking military infrastructure in Ukraine. 

As Haq said in response to the strikes, “We want all sides…to fully implement what they have agreed to.” The grain deal is a hopeful prospect for reducing food prices and global hunger, but the agreement’s aims cannot be fully achieved if Russia initiates military force against grain shipments.