‘A Ray of Optimism,’ Ukraine and Russia Sign Grain Export Agreement!
Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the UN on Friday. These agreements make it possible for millions of tonnes of badly needed Ukrainian grain and some Russian grain and fertilizer to be sent across the Black Sea. The long-awaited deal ends a standoff during a war that had put food security around the world at risk.
The U.N. plan will let Ukraine, which is one of the world’s main sources of food, ship out 22 million tonnes of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports since Russia invaded. Antonio Guterres, the head of the U.N., called it “a beacon of hope” for the millions of people who are hungry because food prices have gone up so much.
“A deal that allows the grain to leave Black Sea ports is nothing short of lifesaving for people across the world who are struggling to feed their families,” said Red Cross Director-General Robert Mardini. He noted that over the past six months, prices for food have risen 187% in Sudan, 86% in Syria, and 60% in Yemen, just to name a few countries.
At a ceremony in Istanbul on Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate but identical deals with Guterres and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was there to watch. Russia and Ukraine would not make a deal with each other directly.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” Guterres said. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
“You have overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all,” he told the envoys.
Guterres described the deal as an unprecedented agreement between two parties engaged in a bloody conflict. Erdogan hoped it would be “a new turning point that will revive hopes for peace.” Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine, sounded a more somber note in Kyiv.
“I’m not opening a bottle of champagne because of this deal,” Kuleba told The Associated Press. “I will keep my fingers crossed that this will work, that ships will carry grain to world markets and prices will go down and people will have food to eat. But I’m very cautious because I have no trust in Russia.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy echoed Kuleba’s concerns in his nightly video address, saying, “It is clear to everyone that there may be some provocations on the part of Russia, some attempts to discredit Ukrainian and international efforts. But we trust the UN.” The European Union and the UK were happy to hear the news right away.
“This is a critical step forward in efforts to overcome the global food insecurity caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Liz Truss, the British Foreign Secretary, praised Turkey and the U.N. for making the deal.
“We will be watching to ensure Russia’s actions match its words,” Truss said. “To enable a lasting return to global security and economic stability, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin must end the war and withdraw from Ukraine.”