Russia's intensified attacks on Ukraine pose significant risks to country’s grain exports

Since July 11, the UN recorded 32 attacks that damaged or destroyed grain production and export facilities

A damaged grain depot at a port on the Danube River in the Odesa region, southern Ukraine. EPA
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The UN warned on Wednesday that Russia’s intensified assaults on Ukraine are posing significant risks to the country’s grain export capacity.

Since July 11, the UN has recorded 32 attacks that damaged or destroyed grain production and export facilities in territory under Ukrainian control.

“Russian attacks hit port facilities, grain silos and vehicles for transporting grain. Most attacks affected infrastructure in the Odesa region, where the Black Sea and Danube River ports are located,” Miroslav Jenca, assistant secretary general for Europe, told the 15-member Security Council.

Mr Jenca said the Russian military attacks have substantially reduced the capacity of Ukraine to export food and “with so many facilities damaged, and export routes curtailed, the cost of logistics is rising”.

Despite the continued attacks on ports and grain infrastructure, exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports through the new corridors announced in August have steadily increased, according to Ramesh Rajasingham, UN humanitarian coordinator.

The UN estimates that about 7 million metric tonnes of commodities have been transported through these corridors, of which about 70 per cent are understood to be grains and other foodstuffs.

“Taking into account other routes, the overall volume of foodstuffs exported from Ukraine last month was comparable to November of last year,” Mr Rajasingham said, warning that Ukraine’s deep-sea ports continue to operate significantly below their potential capacity.

Ukraine created the corridor to the Bosphorus after Russia refused to renew a deal that had allowed Kyiv to safely export its grain to world markets.

Russia has since threatened to attack ships leaving or arriving at ports controlled by Ukraine. It attacked Ukrainian port and grain facilities on several occasions in August and September.

Kyiv said Moscow aimed to block its exports, though the Kremlin claimed it had only hit military targets.

Robert Wood, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, said Moscow's “harassing and threatening” vessels undermined maritime security,

“Russia's actions have been inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the International Maritime Organisation as set forth in Article One of the convention. The safety and security of navigation is critical to maintain the integrity of global supply chains,” he said.

Dmitriy Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, informed the 15-member Security Council that Moscow had been misled by Kyiv and western nations, as they did not comply with the UN-Russia memorandum – an agreement aimed at ensuring the export of Russian food products and fertilisers during the conflict.

“Until we can get a guarantee that the Zelenskyy regime will properly comply with the initiative, then we cannot talk about resuming that initiative,” added Mr Polyanskiy.

Updated: December 07, 2023, 4:26 AM