On August 1, a ship carrying 26,000 tonnes of grain departed Odessa, Ukraine for the first time since February. The ship, sailing under the flag of Sierra-Leone, is taking the massive export of corn to Lebanon through an agreement of safe-passage sponsored by Turkey and the UN.
It’s safely making its way through the Black Sea thus far, although concerns have been raised given Russia’s history of disregarding international law and diplomatic agreements on what has become a daily basis over the past six months.
Pre-invasion, Odessa was one of the largest ports in the Black Sea with an annual traffic capacity of over 40 million tonnes. Since the invasion, it’s become a Ukrainian stronghold with Russian forces unable to capture it, despite its highly coveted sea access and maritime infrastructure. Even after brokering the July 22 deal that allowed yesterday’s grain shipment to pass through the Black Sea unharmed, Russia continued bombing the port of Odessa.
This shipment of grain has become a symbol of hope on two fronts; For those who have depended on Ukrainian grain for years, it brings a sign of progress in what has become a deeply worsening global hunger problem due to the Russian conflict. For Ukraine, it promises much-needed income from a previously strangled industry: “Today, Ukraine, together with its partners, is taking another step towards preventing world hunger,” said Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov. Adding that unblocking the ports would also yield opportunities for Ukraine and, “provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings for the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan next year’s crops.”
However, Putin isn’t allowing this grain shipment to depart without an ulterior motive;
Moscow can and will use the grain agreement as a propaganda tool, selling itself as a guarantor of food security for the Middle East and Africa — which is exactly what Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did during a tour in July.
Moscow continues to so graciously take credit for a drop in the bucket of world hunger, while they are the ones cutting off millions to food by trying to overthrow its supplier.
In a beacon of hope for those starving under Putin’s regime, the Ukraine grain deal brokered is supposedly lasting until November, when the parties can either lapse the deal or extend it. During that time, it’s estimated that of the near 80 million tonnes of grain Ukraine has stuck in silos, up to 20 million tonnes could leave Odessa and feed the hungry.