UKRAINE- Ukrainian officials said the Black Sea Grain Initiative was in danger of shutting down after Russia frustrated inspections of participating ships in Turkish waters, according to a report by Reuters.
Ukraine’s restoration ministry said in a Facebook post headlined “Grain Initiative under threat of a shutdown” that this is the second time in 9 months of operation of the Grain Initiative that there is no inspection plan, and not a single vessel has been inspected.
According to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, “This is another Russian attempt to dictate its policies to the world, endanger food security, and use food as a weapon.”
These inspections were also briefly delayed last week, with Russia indicating it may quit the grain initiative if its issues remain unresolved by mid-May.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Russia blockaded Ukrainian ports. However, the Black Sea Grain Initiative led to an easing of three ports, allowing grains and other commodities to reach many countries worldwide.
The agreement was intended to ease a global food crisis and was extended last month for 60 days, set to expire in May this year.
However, Ukraine says the number of cargo ships passing through the Bosporus carrying Ukrainian agricultural products remained critically low.
Pointing out the bottleneck in the Bosporus, Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, accused Russia of trying to strangle the Ukrainian economy in a Twitter post.
“More than 50 ships are waiting in the Bosphorus for permission to go to Ukrainian ports to load grain that will feed those who need it. Russia is trying to strangle the Ukrainian economy and slow down the flow of food instead of complying with the terms of the agreement,” read the Tweet.
While Russia did not respond to Brink’s or the ministry’s comments, the Kremlin is adamant that a renewal of the grain deal is unlikely unless the UN met the agreements made on a parallel deal to help Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.
According to Ukraine’s restoration ministry, Russian representatives in a Joint Coordination Center were planning to inspect vessels in ways that contradicted the terms of the initiative.
Additionally, Russian inspectors denied the registration of three Ukrainian vessels in the last three days.
“Ukraine categorically rejects Russia’s latest demands and opposes its interference in the operation of Ukrainian ports,” the ministry said.
These black sea hurdles are hitting Ukraine at a time when alternative routes of grain via Central European countries continue to close down.