Russia is doubling down in its efforts to block Ukrainian grain exports and maximize damage to Kyiv’s profits one week after it pulled out of a landmark grain deal securing Ukrainian grain exports.
In addition to its systematic attacks on three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea near Odesa in recent days, Moscow for the first time targeted Ukrainian terminals on the Danube River on Monday night.
In hampering Ukraine’s grain exports, Russia hopes to cut into Ukrainian budget revenues and significantly raise prices on the world market — and reap the benefits for itself, independent experts told journalists.
“The strikes on port infrastructure are a [form of] pressure on Kyiv and on transportation companies. The Kremlin is trying to cause maximum damage to Ukraine — to deprive it of solid financial revenues and seize Ukrainian markets itself,” a former European Union official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Stock markets reacted with sharp price rallies immediately after Russia pulled out of the deal and threatened to strike ships heading to Ukrainian ports, as well as after an early Monday surprise drone attack on Ukrainian port infrastructure on the Danube, which shares a border with NATO member Romania.
In the Turkey and UN-mediated deal agreed in July 2022, Russia agreed to allow the safe passage of grain and fertilizer exports from Odesa and nearby ports.
In exchange, the UN signed a memorandum with Moscow — one of the world’s largest food producers — allowing it to supply food and fertilizers to the world market despite international sanctions and agreeing to reconnect its agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to the SWIFT payments system.
Since it was agreed last July, the grain deal had allowed for the export of almost 33 million metric tons of food through Ukrainian ports, the UN reported.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian diplomats repeatedly complained that Moscow’s terms were never met.
Before Moscow’s announcement that it was pulling out of the deal, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a last-ditch effort to save it, promising in a letter to Putin that he would help reconnect Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT.