Ukraine, Russia Sign Grain Export Deal to Ease World Food Crisis

Russia and Ukraine, both among the world's top exporters of food, sent representatives to Istanbul for the signing ceremony, opening a blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia's Black Sea fleet

Reuters
Reuters
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, sit as two representatives of Ukraine and Russia delegations check hands during a signing ceremony at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, sit as two representatives of Ukraine and Russia delegations check hands during a signing ceremony at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday.Credit: Khalil Hamra/AP
Reuters
Reuters

Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark deal on Friday to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that an international food crisis aggravated by the Russian invasion can be eased.

The accord crowned two months of talks brokered by the United Nations and Turkey aimed at what UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called a "package" that would both restore Ukrainian grain exports while easing Russian grain and fertilizer shipments despite tough Western sanctions on Moscow.

Guterres said the accord opens the way to significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports – Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, and the UN would set up a coordination center to monitor implementation of the deal.

But fighting raged on unabated in Ukraine's east and, underlining deep-seated enmity and mistrust driving the worst conflict in Europe since World War Two, Russian and Ukrainian representatives declined to sit at the same table at the ceremony, and the display of the two countries' flags was adjusted so that they were no longer next to one other.

"In case of provocations, (there will be) an immediate military response" by Ukraine, Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

Russia and Ukraine, both among the world's top exporters of food, sent their defense and infrastructure ministers respectively to Istanbul for the signing ceremony, also attended by Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia's Black Sea fleet, trapping tens of millions of tons of grain in silos and stranding many ships, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks and, along with sweeping Western sanctions, stoked galloping inflation in food and energy prices around the world.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, blaming instead Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its Black Sea ports.

Senior UN officials, briefing reporters on Friday, said the deal was expected to be fully operational in a few weeks.

Safe passage into and out of the ports would be guaranteed in what one official called a "de facto ceasefire" for the ships and facilities covered, they said, although the word "ceasefire" was not in the agreement text.

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