Zante, a cargo vessel carrying Ukrainian grain, transits Bosphorus, in Istanbul
Russia said on Wednesday it would resume its participation in a deal freeing up grain exports from Ukraine, reversing a move that world leaders warned would increase hunger globally.
Russia, whose forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, announced the reversal after Turkey and the United Nations helped keep Ukrainian grain flowing for several days without a Russian role in inspections.
The defence ministry justified the change by saying it had received guarantees from Ukraine that it would not to use the Black Sea grain corridor for military operations against Russia.
“The Russian Federation considers that the guarantees received at the moment appear sufficient, and resumes the implementation of the agreement,” a defence ministry statement said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was important to stand up to “crazy Russian aggression that destabilises international trade.”
“After eight months of Russia’s so-called special operation, the Kremlin is demanding security guarantees from Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
“This is truly a remarkable statement. It shows just what a failure the Russian aggression has been and just how strong we all are when we maintain our unity.”
The grain deal, originally reached three months ago, had alleviated a global food crisis by lifting a de facto Russian blockade on Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain suppliers. The prospect of it collapsing this week revived fears of the food crisis worsening and prices rising.
The prices of wheat, soybeans, corn and rapeseed fell sharply on global markets after Russia’s announcement, which allayed concerns about the growing unaffordability of food.
Insurance companies had paused issuing new contracts, raising the prospect that shipments could stop within days, industry sources said. But Lloyds of London insurer Ascot said that after Wednesday’s announcement it had resumed writing cover for new shipments.
Andrey Sizov, head of the Russia-focused Sovecon agriculture consultancy, said Moscow’s decision was “quite an unexpected turnaround” but the deal remained shaky given uncertainty about whether it would be extended past its Nov. 19 expiry.
A European diplomat briefed on the grain talks said Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely to use the need for an extension as a way to gain leverage and dominate the Nov. 13-16 G20 summit in Indonesia.
Zelenskiy credited Turkey and the United Nations for making it possible for ships to continue moving out of Ukrainian ports with cargoes after Russia suspended participation on Saturday.
In an interview with Turkish broadcaster ATV, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he and Zelenskiy discussed sending grain to African countries. Putin had earlier proposed sending grain to countries such as Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan first, where it is badly needed.
The July 22 grains deal aimed to help avert famine in poorer countries by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer into world markets.
Russia suspended its involvement in the deal saying it could not guarantee safety for civilian ships crossing the Black Sea after an attack on its fleet. Ukraine and Western countries called that a false pretext for “blackmail”, using threats to the global food supply.