Ukraine said seven vessels sailed off from its ports on Sunday carrying grain bound for Asia and Europe, but accused Russia of blocking the full implementation of Black Sea grain deal.
“Russia is deliberately blocking the full realization of the Grain Initiative. As a result, these (Ukrainian) ports in the last few days are working only at 25-30 percent of their capacity,” Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said in a statement via the Telegram messaging app.
The agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, paved the way for Ukraine to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports that had been shut since Russia invaded. Moscow won guarantees for its own grain and fertilizer exports.
Ukraine called for the renewal of the deal but concerns over whether Russia will agree to an extension beyond the Nov. 19 deadline has intensified after Russia has repeatedly raised complaints about its implementation.
Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, last week told Reuters that Moscow had delivered a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres setting out a list of complaints.
Among the ships that departed on Sunday included one chartered by the U.N. World Food Programme, carrying 40,000 tonnes of wheat from Chornomorsk and bound for Yemen, a development welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“It is very important that today the sixth vessel sailed from our port with foodstuffs chartered in the context of the U.N.’s World Food Programme,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
“This ship is bound for Yemen with wheat. Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan — these three countries have already received foodstuffs thanks to our exports and the U.N.’s food program.”
The seven ships carrying a total of 124,300 tonnes of foodstuffs left from ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi, according to the Infrastructure Ministry.
Since Aug. 1, the grain deal struck in Istanbul has resulted in 380 vessels carrying 8.5 million tonnes of foodstuffs from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, the ministry added.
Trade specialists have also raised concerns about the wait time for vessels due to reduced numbers of inspections — considerably less than the 12 supposed to be conducted each day.
“The grain corridor is at least working, but it is very unstable,” Andriy But, head of the grain trading firm Agrotrade, told the publication UkrAgroConsult on Friday.
The deal eased a world food crisis, but as more shippers have joined, the handful of inspection teams has fallen behind.