The United Nations, Türkiye and Ukraine pressed ahead to implement the Black Sea grain deal and agreed on a transit plan for Monday for 16 vessels to move forward, despite Russia’s withdrawal from the pact that has allowed the export of Ukrainian agricultural products to world markets.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb 24, on Saturday halted its role in the Black Sea deal for an “indefinite term,” cutting shipments from one of the world’s top grain exporters, because it said it could not “guarantee the safety of civilian ships” traveling under the pact after an attack on its Black Sea fleet.
The move has sparked an outcry from Ukraine, NATO, the European Union and the United States, while the United Nations and Türkiye, the two main brokers of the July deal, scrambled on Sunday to save it.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was deeply concerned about Russia’s move and delayed a foreign trip to try and revive the agreement that was intended to ease a global food crisis, his spokesperson said.
Following Russia’s move, Chicago wheat futures jumped more than 5% on Monday as both Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest wheat exporters, analysts said.
More than 9.5 million metric tons of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soy have been exported since July. Under the deal, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) – made up of U.N., Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials – agrees on the movement of ships and inspects the vessels.
No ships moved through the established maritime humanitarian corridor on Sunday. But the U.N. said in a statement that it had agreed with Ukraine and Türkiye on a movement plan for 16 vessels on Monday – 12 outbound and 4 inbound.
It said the Russian officials at the JCC had been told about the plan, along with the intention to inspect 40 outbound vessels on Monday, and noted that “all participants coordinate with their respective military and other relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels” under the deal.
During Sunday’s session among the grain deal delegations, Russian officials said Moscow will continue the dialogue with the U.N. and the Turkish delegation on pressing issues, the U.N. said in its statement.
But there was no Russian reaction in response to Monday’s transit plan.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in contact with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to try and salvage the agreement and had asked the parties to avoid any provocation, the Defense Ministry said.
NATO and the EU have urged Russia to reconsider its decision. U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday called Russia’s move “purely outrageous” and said it would increase starvation. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponizing food.
On Sunday, Russia’s ambassador to Washington responded to the U.S., saying the U.S. response was “outrageous” and made false assertions about Moscow’s move.