Nov 2 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday reserved Russia’s right to withdraw again from an international agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea, after ending a four-day no -cooperation with the agreement.
If Russia did, however, Putin said he would not prevent grain shipments from Ukraine to Turkey.
Moscow withdrew from the arrangement, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, on Saturday, saying it could not guarantee the safety of civilian ships crossing the Black Sea due to a drone attack on its fleet there. down.
Wednesday’s U-turn followed a phone call between Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday and consultations between their defense ministers.
In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said that with the help of the United Nations and NATO member Turkey, it had obtained sufficient written guarantees from Ukraine that it would not use the secure maritime corridor or its designated Ukrainian ports for strikes against Russia.
Putin affirmed receipt of these commitments and said that if Russia withdrew once again due to Ukrainian shortcomings, it would substitute the entire volume of grain destined for the “poorest countries” free of charge from its own stocks. .
But, in a nod to Turkey’s influence, as well as what he called its “neutrality” in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, he added: “In any case, we will not hinder grain deliveries from Ukrainian territory to the Turkish Republic in the future.”
Moscow had said on Monday that it would be risky and unacceptable for ships to continue sailing in the secure corridor established under the deal, which freed up Ukrainian ports and shipping lanes that Russia had previously blocked.
Despite the Russian decision, ships continued to export Ukrainian grain and a record volume was transported on Monday.
“This is quite an unexpected turnaround,” said Andrey Sizov, director of agricultural consultancy Sovecon, which specializes in Russia.
“We didn’t bury this deal, but we also didn’t expect Russia to come back to it so soon, because the kind of guarantees Russia could get and how quickly it would happen weren’t very clear. But hey, good job Erdogan.”
Even after the call with the Turkish leader, the Kremlin said Moscow would only consider resuming the deal after a ‘detailed investigation’ into a Saturday drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port. of Sevastopol, which he accused Ukraine of transporting with the support of Great Britain.
Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack and denies using the humanitarian corridor for military purposes. Britain has denied any involvement and accused Russia of trying to distract from its military failures in Ukraine.
Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said Wednesday’s announcement represented an acknowledgment by Putin that he could not block shipments.
“The Kremlin itself simply fell into a trap it couldn’t get out of,” she said.
“It was necessary to retreat and put on a good face (not very successfully) in the face of a bad game. That is to say, Putin, no matter how concerned he is about Ukraine, his historic mission and his faith that he is right, remains a moderately rational politician who knows how to back down if necessary.”
Additional reporting by Polina Devitt, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Guy Faulconbridge/Andrew Osborn
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