Istanbul: Russia and Ukraine have signed a landmark deal in Istanbul on Friday, July 22, to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports and ease an international food crisis even as the war rages on. Friday’s deal means around $10 billion worth of grain will be available for sale with roughly 20 million tons of last year’s harvest that can now be exported, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
Meanwhile, the White House announced fresh military support of around $270 million to Kyiv, including $100 million for drones, and is also doing preliminary work on whether to send fighter aircraft, although it said that would not happen in the near term.
As fighting rages on in Ukraine’s east, in a sign of how far away peace remains, Russian and Ukrainian representatives declined to sit at the same table and avoided shaking hands at the grain agreement ceremony in Istanbul.
Friday’s export deal hopes to avert famine among tens of millions of people in poorer nations by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products into world markets including for humanitarian needs, partly at lower prices.
A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia‘s Black Sea fleet, trapping tens of millions of tonnes of grain and stranding many ships, has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks and, along with Western sanctions, stoked food and energy price inflation.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the crisis, blaming instead sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its Black Sea ports.
A UN official said a separate pact signed on Friday would smooth such Russian exports and that the United Nations welcomed US and European Union clarifications that their sanctions would not apply to their shipment.
Addressing Western concerns that reopening shipping lanes could leave Ukraine open to attack, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated Moscow would not seek to take advantage of the de-mining of Ukraine’s ports.