Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov denied on Thursday reports by Ukrainian and British firms that the new Black Sea export corridor had been suspended.
“The information regarding the cancellation or unscheduled stoppage of the temporary #Ukrainian_corridor for the movement of civilian vessels from and to the ports of the Big Odesa (region) is false,” Kubrakov said on X, formerly Twitter.
“All available routes established by the Ukrainian Navy are valid and being used by civilian vessels.”
The Kyiv-based Barva Invest consultancy, British security firm Ambrey and a specialised outlet, Ukrainian Ports, reported that Ukraine had suspended use of the corridor due to a possible threat from Russian warplanes and sea mines.
Ukraine has been using the corridor to try to revive its seaborne exports without Russian approval, defying threats from Moscow which quit a U.N.-brokered deal in July that had allowed some food exports to flow despite the war.
“We would like to inform you of a temporary suspension of vessel traffic to and from (the ports). The current ban is in force on Oct. 26, but it is possible that it will be extended,” the consultancy said on the Telegram messaging app.
Chicago wheat futures , a global price benchmark, turned higher on the news to recover from an earlier two-week low. They later traded up about 1%.
Wheat futures had been pressured this week by hopes that Ukraine would expand grain exports, as well as rain relief in dry crop belts worldwide.
Barva Invest, which specialises in Ukraine’s agriculture sector, said a de facto suspension had already been in place for two days at the behest of Kyiv’s military, which had cited a threat from increased Russian air force activity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that he had ordered Russian warplanes armed with Kinzhal missiles to patrol the Black Sea.
British maritime security company Ambrey said in a report that the Ukrainian Seaport Authority issued a communique late on Wednesday, saying: “There would be no vessel movement along the corridor for entry and exit on 26th of October, 2023.”
The suspension was prompted by Russian Air Force operations in the region, it said.
“On October 25th, Ambrey informed its clients that the Russian Air Force had dropped at least four objects, likely acoustic and/or magnetic sea mines, into the Ukrainian grain corridor transit area near Snake Island, Ukraine,” it said.
Ukraine launched a “humanitarian corridor” for ships bound for African and Asian markets in August to try to circumvent a de facto blockade in the Black Sea after Russia quit the deal that had guaranteed Kyiv’s seaborne exports during the war.
Later, a senior agricultural official said the route – which runs along Ukraine’s southwest Black Sea coast, into Romanian territorial waters and onwards to Turkey, would also be used for grain shipments.
About 700,000 tons of grain have left Ukrainian ports via the new route since it began operating in August. Ukraine shipped up to six million tons of grain a month from its Black Sea ports before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Kubrakov said 23 ships were loading in the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.
“A total of 51 vessels used the entrance corridor. 33 vessels exported more than 1.3 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products and other cargo,” he said.