After suspending it over the weekend in a move that threatened to worsen famine in the world, Russia announced on Wednesday that it will restart its involvement in a pact to release crucial grain exports from war-torn Ukraine.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Kiev had given formal assurances not to conduct military operations against Russia via the Black Sea grain corridor.
The statement from the ministry read, “The Russian Federation deems that the guarantees acquired at this time look sufficient, and restarts the implementation of the agreement.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had told his Turkish counterpart that the July 22 grain deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations would continue to operate as of midday on Wednesday.
“The grain transports will continue as agreed before as of 12 (pm) today,” Erdogan said.
Russia suspended its involvement in the deal over the weekend, saying it could not guarantee safety for civilian ships crossing the Black Sea because of an attack on its fleet there. Ukraine said that was a false pretext.
Ships have continued to carry Ukrainian grain on the route despite the suspension, but that had been unlikely to continue for long because insurance companies were not issuing new contracts due to Russia’s move, industry sources told Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier that the world should respond firmly to any Russian attempts to disrupt Ukraine’s export corridor across the Black Sea, which was blocked after Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The Russian blockade has exacerbated food shortages and a cost of living crisis in many countries as Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of grain and oilseeds.
In a Tuesday night video address, Zelenskiy said ships were still moving out of Ukrainian ports with cargoes thanks to the work of Turkey and the United Nations.
“But a reliable and long-term defence is needed for the grain corridor,” Zelenskiy said.
“Russia must clearly be made aware that it will receive a tough response from the world to any steps to disrupt our food exports,” Zelenskiy said. “At issue here clearly are the lives of tens of millions of people.”
The grains deal aimed to help avert famine in poorer countries by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer into world markets and to ease a steep rise in prices. It targeted the pre-war level of 5 million metric tonnes exported from Ukraine each month.