The UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a statement on Thursday condemning the Russian attacks against ports in Odesa and other Ukrainian Black Sea ports. The attacks on civilian infrastructure may be a violation of international humanitarian law. According to Russia’s commitments under the Memorandum of Understanding, Russia should be facilitating the export of food from Ukrainian ports – but the attacks contradict this. The statement highlights that the attacks impact global grain prices and emphasizes the need for UN intervention to ensure that Ukrainian and Russian food and fertiliser are available on international markets.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre was orchestrated by the UN Secretary-General and was signed by Turkey, Ukraine and Russia in July 2022. The initiative aimed to support the safe transportation of gran and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports during the war. However, Russia withdrew from the initiative on Friday with “no legitimate reason and is using the Black Sea as blackmail,” according to the UN Security Council. The UN and Turkey are still in support of the initiative.
Over two days, Russia destroyed 60,000 tonnes of grain in the port of Chornomorsk in the Odessa region, which was supposed to be shipped months ago but was delayed due to Russia “sabotaging” the grain initiative. Furthermore, at least three people were killed through strikes on port cities and 19 injured in Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea – according to OCHA Ukraine. After the attacks, global wheat and corn prices increased massively, which benefited Russian exporters but negatively impacted those in the Global South and is a critical lifeline for Ukraine. The UN continues to urge Moscow to stop the attacks, reverse its decision and fully implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative.