September 22, 2023
Firefighters in Ukraine's Odesa Oblast battle blazes caused by Russian missile strikes in a photo provided by Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper

Firefighters in Ukraine's Odesa Oblast battle blazes caused by Russian missile strikes in a photo provided by Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper

Russia has terminated its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a landmark deal which Turkey and the U.N. brokered in 2022 to allow grain shipments, critical to the global food supply, to leave Ukrainian ports unharmed.

Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the grain deal would be suspended until demands to get Russian food and fertilizer to the world are met. “When the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented, Russia will immediately return to the implementation of the deal,” Peskov said, according to AP. 

As part of the Black Sea Grain Deal, the U.N. promised to facilitate the export of Russian fertilizers to the global market. Russia has been saying since April that these guarantees have not been fulfilled. To show just how crucial the U.N. views the grain deal, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres was willing to appease Putin’s demands by allowing Russia’s agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank back into the global SWIFT messaging system, a key component of international banking.

Guterres derided the decision, saying “I deeply regret the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative – including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea”

He shared a portion of a letter he sent to Vladimir Putin outlining measures the U.N. and the European Union have taken to renormalize Russian fertilizer trade including the creation of “a bespoke payments mechanism for the Russian Agricultural Bank through JP Morgan outside of SWIFT.”

Guterres noted that the agro-bank’s readmission to SWIFT would, crucially, not conflict with existing U.S. and EU sanctions. He called it a “unique political opening, stemming from a genuine desire to protect global food security beyond 17 July.”

Almost immediately after the deal expired Russia started bombing grain export facilities in the Ukrainian port city Odesa.

Russia has continually bombed Odesa, a key Black Sea transport hub, with Kalibr cruise missiles, said Odesa Oblast’s Governor Oleh Kiper. “After three consecutive nights of powerful missile and drone terror of the port infrastructure, he [Putin] switched to agricultural enterprises in the region,” Kiper said on Telegram. The latest attack, says Kiper, destroyed 100 tons of peas and 20 tons of barley.

“During the period from July 17 to July 21, as a result of Russian missile and drone attacks on the territory of Odesa region, 21 people were injured, of which 14 people, including 2 children, were hospitalized,” announced Kiper.

“Only absolute evil can inflict such blows. There will be an answer,” promised Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky. “In addition, there will be even more consolidation of the world for defense and for joint action, even more energy for victory, even more desire for justice,” Zelensky concluded.

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