Russia ‘exits’ UN-brokered deal
Hours after drones destroyed Russia’s sole bridge linking its continental portion to the Crimean peninsula, the Kremlin announced on Monday that it was ending a significant arrangement permitting grain exports from Ukraine. Moscow has long grumbled about the implementation of the deal, which was intended to allay concerns about food shortages in vulnerable nations, and claimed that the deadly Kerch bridge attack had nothing to do with its withdrawal.
What is the Black Sea Grain Initiative?
- Context: The program was launched during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Due to the invasion, grain supplies by sea from Ukraine, a significant Black Sea exporter, and Russia’s grain exports were both briefly halted. With claims that Russia was turning food supplies into weapons, this led to an increase in food prices worldwide and the prospect of starvation in low-income nations.
- Conversations and Consensus: The United Nations (UN) and Turkey, which controls the Black Sea’s marine channels, had discussions on the topic in April 2022. The resulting agreement, which had a 120-day duration, was signed on July 22, 2022, in Istanbul. To ease the food crisis, the agreement set forth rules for securely exporting grain from particular ports.
- Coordination and Inspection Center: The UN is acting as the secretariat for a joint coordination and inspection centre that was formed in Turkey. This centre was essential in guaranteeing the secure transfer of food and grain while upholding the specified protocols and requirements.
- Extension of the pact: The pact, which was initially slated to expire on November 19, 2022, ran into difficulties when Russia briefly halted its participation as a result of a drone attack on Russian military ships in the Black Sea. However, after attempts at conciliation, Russia eventually returned. A 120-day extension of the agreement was announced by the UN and Ukraine on November 17, 2022.
- successful Shipments: By mid-July 2023, more than 1,000 trips had left Ukrainian ports successfully, transporting approximately 33 million tonnes of grain and other food products to 45 nations. The interruption in grain exports led to a global food crisis, which was greatly helped by these supplies.
What is the Background behind this deal?
- A projected 47 million people globally were expected to be severely undernourished in 2022 as a result of rising food prices. The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 were among the causes of this.
- The war had the greatest impact on developing and emerging nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These nations were particularly dependent on imported grain and gasoline, which left them vulnerable to the rise in food prices.
- According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Ukraine is one of the top exporters of grains, sending over 45 million tonnes of grain to the world market each year.
- 20 million tonnes of grain were delayed at Odesa, a port city in Ukraine, as a result of the conflict. Wheat, corn, and sunflower oil exports—which were predominantly transported through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports—were impacted by this disruption.
- While some ports were under Russian control, others had damaged infrastructure, and some were closed by mines. These conditions made it much more difficult for Ukrainian agricultural products to be exported.
- Due to the size of the operation and the potential for leaving the ports open to attack, the Ukrainian government was initially hesitant to demine the sea area nearby the ports.
- There were rumours that the European Union was debating a proposal for the establishment of a subsidiary by the Russian Agricultural Bank in July 2023. To ease the bank’s sanctions, this action intended to re-connect the bank to the global financial network, including SWIFT.
- To protect the Black Sea grain agreement, sanctions against the Russian Agricultural Bank were loosened. By preserving this agreement, the EU sought to promote Ukraine’s agricultural sector and secure continuing access to international food markets. This agreement allowed Ukraine to export its food products to those markets.
Which is the sea route through which this trade was going on?
- In the northwest of Turkey, there are two significant rivers known as the Turkish Straits.
- They are made up of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, which link the Black Sea to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
- The Sea of Marmara’s opposite ends are where the straits are located.
- They are regarded as a component of Turkey’s exclusive economic zone at sea and are governed by the internal waters regime.
- Geographically, the straits separate European Turkey from Asian Turkey and act as a border between the two continents.
- Due to its strategic significance in trade, politics, and warfare, the Turkish Straits have had a tremendous impact on European and global history.
- The Montreux Convention, which has been in force since 1936, provides guidelines for the management and regulation of the straits.
What are the recent developments that led to Russia’s decision in withdrawing from the deal?
- Drones Attack Kerch Bridge:
- The only bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean peninsula, the Kerch Bridge, was attacked by drones.
- Both the bridge and the attack’s fatalities were damaged.
- Russian authorities said that the strike was carried out by the Ukrainian Navy and the SBU security service.
- When Russian forces are resupplying their frontlines in southern Ukraine, the Kerch Bridge is a vital supply route.
- Russia’s Exit from Ukraine’s Grain Export Deal:
- The Kremlin declared that Russia was leaving Ukraine’s grain export deal.
- Russia’s displeasure with the pact’s execution was cited as the reason for the decision.
- The drone attack on the Kerch Bridge was not a direct cause of the withdrawal.
- Russian Reactions and Actions:
- Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, ordered that the bridge be repaired and restored.
- Putin promised to respond to the drone strike with retaliation.
- He labelled the assault a terrorist attack and stressed the importance of stepping up security.
- Impact on the Grain Agreement:
- Over 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain were exported last year according to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
- No new ships have been authorized since June 27, according to the Joint Coordination Centre, which is in charge of the deal.
- Not all parties concerned had agreed to the applications for participation in the agreement.
- With Putin announcing Russia’s intention to cancel the agreement because of what was viewed as neglect of Russian interests, the pact’s survival was already in doubt.