Russia agrees to rejoin Ukraine grain export deal

Russia’s defence ministry says it received ‘sufficient’ guarantees from Kyiv on demilitarising the Black Sea corridor.

ships wait to pass Bosphorus strait
Commercial vessels including vessels which are part of Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, October 31 [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Russia has said it will rejoin a UN-backed agreement to allow the export of grain from Ukraine via a safe Black Sea corridor, with shipments expected to resume on Wednesday.

Russia’s defence ministry confirmed that Moscow would again participate, saying it had received “sufficient” guarantees from Kyiv that it would not use the maritime corridor for military operations against Russia.

“Russia considers that the received guarantees are, at the moment, sufficient and is resuming the implementation of the agreement,” the ministry said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had told his Turkish counterpart that the grain deal, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, would continue to operate as of midday on Wednesday.

Erdogan told parliament that “shipments will continue from 12pm today [09:00 GMT] as planned”.

Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, reporting from Istanbul, says Turkey’s role in bringing Russia back to the initiative highlights that Ankara is now the “de facto mediator” between Moscow and Kyiv.

“We know that Russia over the weekend had withdrawn from the agreement … but after intensive talks between Ankara, Moscow, Kyiv and, of course, the involvement of the United Nations as well, it seems that the deal is once again alive and working,” Serdar said.

The deal, overseen by the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, has allowed more than 9.7 million metric tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs to leave Ukrainian ports.

This has brought much-needed relief to a global food crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a key grain exporter.

Under the terms of the deal, which was agreed on in July, ships moving to and from Ukraine are inspected by a joint team of Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and UN officials.

Russia on Saturday had said it was temporarily pulling out of the agreement, accusing Ukraine of misusing the safe shipping corridor to launch a drone attack on its Black Sea fleet.

Some shipments moving in and out of Ukraine continued after that, but the UN on Tuesday said there would be no deliveries on Wednesday.

‘Dangerous’ without Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday had urged “reliable and long-term protection” of the corridor while Russia’s Vladimir Putin demanded “real guarantees”.

In a call with Zelenskyy on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron denounced Russia’s decision to exit the deal saying it “again harms global food security”.

Ukraine had dismissed Russia’s accusations as a “false pretext” to withdraw from the deal.

The Kremlin has long criticised the deal, claiming that most of the consignments were arriving in Europe, not in low-income countries where grain was needed most.

Ukrainian officials have denied the claim, and data compiled by a monitoring group as part of the accord does not reflect this assertion.

Cargo loaded with grain kept sailing on Monday and Tuesday, but the UN said any deliveries after Russia announced its suspension were “a temporary and extraordinary measure”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said on Monday that it was “dangerous” to continue exports without Russia’s participation.

The Russian defence ministry on Wednesday said it obtained written guarantees from Kyiv “thanks to the participation” of the UN and “assistance” from Turkey.

It said Kyiv guaranteed “the non-use of the humanitarian corridor and Ukrainian ports determined in the interests of the export of agricultural products for conducting military operations against the Russian Federation”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies