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21 Jan, 2023 13:46

Moscow explains Ukraine grain shipment delays

Kiev’s merchants are creating an “artificial” backlog by breaking UN-brokered regulations, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said
Moscow explains Ukraine grain shipment delays

Ukrainian businessmen are sabotaging the internationally brokered deal to unblock grain shipments from the country’s ports, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. The agreement – the Black Sea Grain Initiative – was signed in July last year to restore deliveries of wheat and other agricultural products interrupted by the Ukraine conflict.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN said that more than 100 ships were in Turkish waters, including 32 vessels waiting for inspection by the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), which is made up of representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye, and the UN.

“In the last two weeks, the average waiting time of vessels between application and inspection is 21 days,” the UN said, urging “all parties to work to remove obstacles for the reduction of the backlog and improve operational efficiencies within the JCC.” 

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it could not confirm UN data about the number of ships and waiting times. According to Moscow, 64 vessels were docked at Ukrainian ports or waiting in inspection zones. “The order of inspections and passages is being managed by the Ukrainian side. Russian representatives cannot influence them in any way,” the statement read.

The ministry accused Ukraine of creating “an artificial backlog” of freighters in Istanbul. The problem was “caused by Ukrainian merchants who are contracting vessels not in accordance with the rules and terms of registration, and without participating in the initiative,” the ministry said.

“Those in Kiev are only driven by the profit motive, to sell as many and as fast as possible, while neglecting official procedures.” 

Moscow insisted in the past that, while the grain deal was promoted as a way to deliver food to the poorest countries, the majority of the shipments were heading for the EU and Türkiye.

In late October, Russia briefly suspended its participation in the agreement after accusing Ukraine of sending drones to attack a naval base in Crimea. Moscow eventually returned to the deal, saying that it had received additional assurances from Kiev. Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the attack.