Conflict Alerts # 534, 28 July 2022
In the news
On 22 July, Ukraine and Russia signed a deal under Turkiye and the UN mediation, to remove the naval blockade restricting Ukraine from exporting grains. The deal allows a safe passage for ships and vessels carrying grains, fertilizers and ammonia from three key ports of Ukraine. The ports - Odesa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhnyy will be monitored by the deal. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: "(the deal) will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine.”
On 23 July, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported on Russia attacking the Odesa port with missiles. Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, responded that Russia had carried out a high-precision strike which targeted only the military infrastructure.
Issues at large
First, the deal. The reasons behind Ukraine and Russia signing the deal might differ, but the key purpose of Turkey and the UN’s involvement is to ease the growing war and its impact on the global food crisis. Ukraine being the producer of key commodities, Russia’s naval block has added to the global food crisis; to facilitate the grain exports, both parties needed a mediator to monitor. Through Turkey, Russia will be able to keep a check on what enters Ukraine’s ports, and Ukraine will be able to export its accumulated grains on a safe route.
Second, Russia’s objectives. Russia, at the peak of shelling down Ukraine, circling its eastern region and important ports, has agreed to the deal because of Turkey’s assurance to monitor and prevent the entry of weapons into Ukraine. It will also be signing a " mirror agreement " allowing Russia to export its agricultural produce without sanctions. This means, that while Russia is launching ground attacks, it also wants to protect its economy.
Third, the global food crisis. Ukraine is a significant producer of grains, cooking oil, fertilizers, wheat, corn, and sunflower oil; the war has pushed the food insecurity, especially in East Africa and the Middle East. 50 million people from seven countries in East Africa, including Somalia and South Sudan, have recorded acute hunger and close to 300,000 are on the edge of famine.
First, alternate to grain exports. The Russian navy has blocked certain ports of Ukraine, restricting Ukraine’s sea exports, but there are other ports at the entrance of the Black Sea, Bosporus, Danube and Azov Sea areas which can be utilised. Such ports might not have the facility to store grains, but with the ongoing war, developing such ports could be useful.
Second, the continuing Russian attacks despite the deal. According to the deal, Russia is not allowed to launch attacks or interrupt the vessels that pass through the humanitarian maritime corridor unless there is suspicion. Therefore, shelling on military infrastructure in Odesa port does not breach any part of the deal. Such attacks can be a strategy of Russia to ensure Ukraine does not counter back when Russia tries to seize any such vessels.