The Hong Kong-flagged container ship ‘Joseph Schulte’ departed the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Wednesday, challenging Russia, which has threatened to sink such vessels since the end of a standoff in July.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the container ship was using a “new humanitarian corridor” established by Kyiv.
The Turkish president announced on Thursday that Turkey had “warned” Russia after warning shots were fired aboard a cargo ship from a Turkish company en route to the port of Ismail in southern Ukraine on Sunday. “The interlocutors in Russia are warned to avoid these kinds of attempts that could cause tension in the Black Sea,” Ankara said, breaking its silence on the case involving a vessel owned by a Turkish company, even though it flies the Palau flag. Russia has stepped up attacks on Ukraine’s Black Sea and Danube port infrastructure since withdrawing from a UN-brokered grain deal with Turkey.
Why is Ukraine forcing the blockade?
The new corridor will be used in February 2022 “mainly to evacuate ships that were in the ports during the Russian invasion,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, the Ukrainian minister in charge of infrastructure, announced. But Ukraine’s decision to challenge Russia over access to the Black Sea comes amid global attention to find a way to secure grain export routes in time for this autumn’s harvest.
Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and seed oil. Last year’s grain deal helped lower global food prices and provided Ukraine with an important source of revenue to continue the war.
What new corridor is this?
Ukraine now uses the Danube to export its grain. Most of this traffic travels by river and eventually reaches the Black Sea at the Ukraine-Romania border.
According to the Wall Street Journal, US officials are in talks with Turkey, Ukraine and its neighbors about increasing traffic along the Danube route. But a Turkish defense ministry official on Thursday dismissed Washington’s overture. “Our efforts are focused on reactivating the grain deal,” an unnamed Turkish Defense Ministry official told Turkish private broadcaster NTV.
Is it possible to re-enforce the contract?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin this month. The resumption of the agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain should be on the agenda of the discussions.
Erdogan sought to maintain neutrality and raise Turkey’s diplomatic profile during the war.
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