First, Russia pulled out of the grain deal which had been guaranteeing safe exports of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. Moscow then started attacking grain terminals and port infrastructure in Odessa, one of the major ports in Ukraine. Missile attacks so far have destroyed around 60,000 tonnes of grain.
Joseph Borrell, the head of EU diplomacy, condemned Russia’s attacks today. “This consideration that any ship [is considered as] a war ship and so a target for the military activities of Russia, is a step further in order to continue preventing Ukraine from exporting their grains”, he said.
This is only the latest blow for an industry that has been suffering extremely painful losses throughout the war. Ukraine is considered the “breadbasket of Europe”, providing grain to Western and African countries. Since the invasion started the industry has seen its ports shut down with tonnes of grain stuck in silos. The only consolation was the grain deal brokered by Turkey, which Russia has now decided to exit.
Borrell was among several political figures coming out to denounce Russia’s attacks. Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock pledged to do everything in her country’s power to make sure grain wouldn’t go wasted while stuck in Ukraine. Kenya’s government called Russia’s decision to leave the deal a “stab in the back” for its country and all other African countries in need of food aid because of droughts.
Russia wasn’t shy in taking responsibility for the attacks, calling the missiles on Odessa a “mass revenge strike” for the attack on the bridge linking occupied Crimea to Russia that was reported in the early hours of Monday morning. A Ukrainian security official confirmed his country was behind the attack.
Chornomorsk, another key Ukrainian port, was also targeted in yesterday’s strikes. At least 12 civilians were wounded in the attacks.
Russia has said it refuses to restart talks on the grain deal unless the United Nations concede to its demands, which mainly relate to being able to export its own grain and fertilisers abroad.
Turkish President Erdogan has promised he will try, once again, to make Putin come back to the negotiating table. But the next few weeks will still feel very hard for Ukrainian farmers – and for everyone relying on grain from Ukraine to put food on the table.