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Ukraine Grain Exports Halted by Russian Blockade

Act is seen as 'deliberate attack' on global food chain

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

Newly declassified U.S. intelligence shows that a Russian naval blockade has halted maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, in what world leaders call a 'deliberate attack' on the global food supply chain that has raised fears of political instability and shortages unless grain and other essential agricultural products are allowed to flow freely from Ukraine.

Russia’s navy now effectively controls all traffic in the northern third of the Black Sea, making it unsafe for commercial shipping, according to a U.S. government document obtained by The Washington Post.

Safe corridors needed to transport grain

Western powers have been discussing the idea of setting up "safe corridors" for grain exports from Ukraine's ports, adding that any such corridor would need Russian consent.

The European Commission offered its EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes strategy.

With its initiative, the commission sets out an action plan to establish ‘Solidarity Lanes' to ensure Ukraine can export grain, but also import the goods it needs, from humanitarian aid to animal feed and fertilizers.

"There are 20 million tonnes of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure," said Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean.

Vast amounts of Ukraine's grain is stuck in silos because access to ports like Odesa and Mariupol is closed. The July export deadline is both because the grain is needed to meet demand but also to free up silo capacity for the next harvest.

The country needs to move millions of tons of grain to earn cash and to prevent a food crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

International community needs to step up to avoid food crisis

The international community should help create a "safe passage" to enable the millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine to leave the country, said Yuliia Svyrydenko, First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine. She told the BBC that some sort of "corridor" was needed.

Svyrydenko, who is also Ukraine's Minister of the Economy, urged the international community to help lift the blockade of the country's sea ports.

She said this could be a "solution" allowing Ukraine to export the grain currently stuck in its silos and unable to be shipped.

She hinted that military means might be necessary to achieve this.

Russia offers safe corridors -- with conditions

According to a Reuters report, Russia is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, in return for the lifting of some sanctions, the Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying on Wednesday.

Rudenko was also quoted by Interfax as saying that possible escort by Western ships of Ukraine's vessels carrying grain would "seriously exacerbate the situation in the Black Sea."

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