Russia’s suspension of its involvement throws the initiative’s operations into question, as Russia controls areas of the Black Sea ships must transit to reach Ukrainian sea ports. Russia’s participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative reduced risks for vessels involved in the programme as signatories guaranteed of safety for approved vessels transiting the humanitarian corridor, and agreed to update their militaries on vessel movements.
The suspension of participation is a reaction to a sustained drone attack on the Russian Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, claimed Russia, including on vessels involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Ukraine claims the attack is being as an excuse to suspend the agreement and that the decision was made long before the attack.
Russia previously suggested it might not renew the deal which is up for renewal on November 20.
The various delegations to the agreement from the UN, Türkiye, Russia and Ukraine met on October 30 when Russia formally announced its suspension of participation, and others worked on plans to keep the operation running in their absence.
Representatives from Türkiye and the UN proposed they provide 10 inspection teams to inspect 40 outbound vessels. Ukraine has approved that proposal and Russia “has been informed.”
Russia has said it will continue dialogue with the initiative’s Joint Co-ordination Centre on pressing issues, and that it will remotely co-operation on any issues that require immediate decision by the JCC.
There are 97 vessels loaded vessels under the Black Sea Grain Initiative and 15 vessels at Istanbul registered for inspection, with a further 89 applications to join the initiative. There are 21 vessels at or near the three Ukraine ports involved in the initiative, including one carrying 30,000 tonnes of wheat for the World Food Programme’s emergency response in the Horn of Africa.
To date, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has moved over 9.5m tonnes of grain and foodstuffs out of Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the UN released a report urging the renewal of the programme in November to allow grain and foodstuffs to continue to reach world markets from Ukraine. The report highlighted the volumes of grain reaching developing and least-developed countries and the impact Ukraine’s exports had in restraining world food prices.
UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed his deep concern over the development, cancelling a trip to focus on intense contacts to try and renew Russia’s participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
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