The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, in a meeting this Wednesday in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, has rejected that the blockade of the Black Sea is the responsibility of Russia and has repeated what Moscow has been defending for weeks: to unblock the exports of Ukrainian grains what is needed is for Ukraine to demine the ports. “To solve the problem, the only thing that is needed is for the Ukrainians to allow ships to leave their ports, either by clearing them or marking safe corridors, nothing more is required,” Lavrov said at the press conference after a meeting. meeting on which the hopes of progress towards a solution were concentrated. The demining of the port of Odesa, with the help of Turkey, is one of the proposals of the plan for the unblocking of the Black Sea to activate safe corridors for ships and to release the 20 million tons of wheat stranded in Ukraine. “We are talking about a mechanism to be developed between the United Nations, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. We believe that Turkey could apply this plan”, said Çavuşoğlu, after the meeting. Ankara, at the request of the United Nations, would also be in charge of escorting merchant ships.
War in Ukraine with no end in sight threatens global food security
Kyiv doesn’t trust
The plan, however, is viewed with skepticism from kyiv. The Ukrainian government fears that Russia could take advantage of the decreased defense of the Odessa terminal to launch an attack against the strategic port city. Ukraine is one of the main producers and exporters of cereals in the world and the blockade of its exports threatens to deepen the already incipient food crisis in already vulnerable countries, as various United Nations agencies have been repeating for weeks. Something that Lavrov has denied. According to the Russian Foreign Minister, the current food crisis has nothing to do with the situation around Ukrainian grain, since Ukraine produces “less than 1% of grain” worldwide. However, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Ukraine is the sixth largest exporter of wheat and meslin (Russia heads the list of major exporters), with 10 percent percent market share, and is also the world’s third largest exporter of barley and corn, where Russia’s share is smaller. And its main importers are North African and Asian countries.
“Given the recent Russian missile attack on a grain warehouse in Mikolaiv, we cannot rule out that Russia is planning to use this corridor to attack Odessa and southern Ukraine. That is why effective security guarantees are needed to restore navigation. These guarantees must go through supplying Ukraine with the appropriate weapons to protect the coast from threats from the sea and that naval forces of third countries patrol this area of the Black Sea, ”reads a statement published Tuesday by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. . “We appreciate Turkey’s efforts – the note continues – to unblock Ukrainian ports. At the same time, it should be noted that there is no agreement on this issue between Ukraine, Turkey and Russia at the moment. We emphasize that decisions must be made with the participation of all parties involved. We will reject any agreement that does not take into account the interests of Ukraine.”
Given kyiv’s misgivings, Lavrov has once again reiterated the promise that Russia will not take advantage of the situation to advance on the military front. The head of Russian diplomacy added that Moscow is willing “to formalize (this guarantee) in one way or another.” “President Putin has already publicly said that we guarantee the safety of these routes and we guarantee that, in the event that Ukraine agrees to demine the ports and let the ships out, we will not take advantage of this situation in the framework of the special military operation that it’s underway,” added Lavrov.
Some promises that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed in a tweet on Monday: “Putin says he will not use trade routes to attack Odessa. It is the same Putin who told German Chancellor Scholz and French President Macron that he would not attack Ukraine, days before launching a full-scale invasion of our country. We cannot trust Putin, his words are empty”.
food as a weapon
The presidents of the European Commission and the European Council have reiterated this Wednesday before the European Parliament that food security is now one of the weapons of the Vladimir Putin regime in its invasion of Ukraine, through the blockade of Ukrainian ports and the bombing of grain stores. “Food has become part of the Kremlin’s arsenal of terror,” said von der Leyen.
“It is the only way to describe Russia’s bombing of grain storage facilities and its blockade of Ukrainian ports, and in some cases even the theft of some 20 million tons of grain currently trapped in Ukraine. And it is our duty to dismantle Russian disinformation. Let’s be very clear: while Russia actively uses hunger as a weapon, EU sanctions are carefully designed to avoid a negative impact. And they provide a clear exemption for food products. Our sanctions do not affect basic food products. They do not affect trade in grain or other food between Russia and third countries”, he added.
Çavuşoğlu referred precisely to the sanctions after the meeting with Lavrov. “It is not enough to say that Russian products, such as grain and fertilizer, are not included in the sanctions, which are the statements that we have seen lately. We believe that steps must also be taken to allow the ships that transport these products to dock in ports and receive logistics services, as well as bank payment matters,” said the Turkish minister.
A new call to find a solution to the blockade of the Black Sea has arrived this Wednesday from Rome where the ministers responsible for food from 24 Mediterranean countries participated remotely in the First Ministerial Meeting on the Food Crisis organized by Italy and the FAO . At the end of the event behind closed doors, its host, the Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, demanded that Russia release the Ukrainian grain that withers in the ports of that country. “The next few weeks will be crucial. I want to say it clearly: from Russia we expect clear and concrete signals, because blocking the export of grain means kidnapping and condemning millions of children, women and men to death”, he said at a press conference.
“The situation can degenerate into a world food crisis if immediate action is not taken, with more devastating consequences, destabilizing already fragile states, with new wars or migratory flows that are increasingly difficult to manage”, added Di Maio, joining the voices that in recent days they have expressed concern about the consequences of the food crisis and a possible rebound in arrivals in the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East.