The United Nations is coordinating talks between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey in the hope of securing security guarantees that would allow Ukraine to export its grain and help ease a global food crisis exacerbated by the war.
But the Ukrainian government’s negotiator expressed skepticism in a recent interview with the New York Times that Russia would stick to any guarantee unless Kyiv had the military power to enforce it.
Ukraine’s negotiator, Rustam Omirov, told The Times that the country was preparing for talks in Istanbul to discuss a way to end Russia’s de facto blockade of the Black Sea port of Odessa to allow 20 million metric tons of grain to be shipped to Ukraine. in storage silos.
But he said that only the delivery of powerful naval weapons committed by Western allies would be an effective security guarantee, and accused Russia of seeking to use the issue to strengthen its position in the Black Sea.
“If we open the ports, it means that the northwest Black Sea will open to them,” he said. He added that no international backer “who guarantees us” could be relied upon to respond if Russia attacks Ukrainian ships.
“And they understand that,” he said. “That’s why they put pressure on the world to pressure Ukraine to open the ports.”
Before the start of the war, Ukraine was exporting about six million metric tons of grain per month, Kate Newton, emergency coordinator for the United Nations World Food Program in Ukraine, said at a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday. She said the country is now only able to export about 1 million metric tons per month.
“We’re doing everything we can, exporting grain by truck, rail and river,” she said. But, she said, without the use of the Black Sea ports, it would not be possible to raise export levels much.
Russian forces also bombed grain storage centers and fields across Ukraine. When Ukraine began shipping grain from a port on the Danube, the Russians Main bridge bombing Trucks could be used to get there.
In earlier negotiations, Moscow insisted on the right to “inspect” all ships carrying Ukrainian grain – a condition Kyiv would not accept.
Ukraine’s military said Thursday it had expelled Russian forces from Snake Island, a strategically important outcrop whose loss could undermine Moscow’s control of the Black Sea shipping lanes. But the de facto blockade of Russia has shown no sign of easing.
Mr. Omerov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of spreading misinformation about who was responsible for the blockade. Omerov said that the issue of grain, and even the possibility of a famine, became part of Moscow’s information war.
“They are arming starvation,” said Omerov. “They address the African countries saying, ‘We are always ready to support you, it is the Ukrainians who do not open the ports.’ African countries are highly dependent on grain from Russia and Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry described its withdrawal from Snake Island as a humanitarian gesture and reiterated that it was not responsible for the food crisis. But in a recent appearance, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT’s Kremlin spokeswoman, appeared to suggest the crisis could be in Moscow’s political favour.
“I heard it many times in Moscow from many people: ‘All we hope for is famine,'” she told the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on June 20, adding that these people’s expectation is that the famine will drive countries to collapse and impose sanctions on Russia.
Kyiv is working to counter this narrative. Last week, Mr. Kuleba spent an hour speaking to journalists from Africa, stressing Ukraine’s urgency to resume exports.
“The only country that is not under the pressure of time here is Russia,” he said in an interview. “Time is running out for everyone else, whether we are the suppliers, African and Asian countries as recipients, or the United Nations, whose reputation is at stake.”
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