Grain exports from Ukraine: no deal in Ankara

The Russian navy has been blockading Black Sea ports including Ukrainian grain exports since the war against Ukraine began. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday rejected any responsibility for the famines that are looming in several countries and put the onus on Kyiv. Once Ukraine has de-mined its ports Moscow is willing to open grain export corridors, he said. Europe's press is dubious.

Open/close all quotes
Večernji list (HR) /

Erdoğan's trade-off

Turkey is pursuing its own goals in the negotiations, Večernji list comments:

“Lavrov came to Ankara not just because of Ukraine's grain but also because of the announcement of a Turkish offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria. To continue the operation in this area Turkey needs guarantees from Russia, as the two countries have supported opposing parties in the war in Syria, which has caused casualties on both sides. It's not out of the question that the Turkish solution to the grain problem will involve such a concession from Russia. ... Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to be redecorating his shop window, offering but also demanding a lot.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Russia's bluff

Corriere della Sera analyses the Kremlin's interests in the negotiations:

“Ankara's proposal to open a corridor from Odessa to a neutral sea, de-mined and guaranteed by the Turks themselves, and a Russian pledge not to use this corridor to attack the Ukrainian port, is a 'reasonable and feasible' goal, according to the UN. Reasonable, perhaps. Feasible probably less so. Because Moscow wants Kyiv to do the de-mining and has proposed escorting the grain shipments from Odessa - however only if export sanctions are lifted. ... So it has taken just five days to understand that the tsar has been bluffing again: Russia is using the grain blockade to bring about an easing of sanctions.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Playing games with hunger

The Tages-Anzeiger has no faith in Russia's promises:

“Basic foodstuffs must not be used as a bargaining chip to push through political goals such as the end of sanctions. That should not only be a matter of global consensus, but a maxim for anyone acting at the level of international politics. In the current negotiations, however, the UN is merely sitting at the table instead of organising an escort for the freighters itself. ... Even if the negotiations do produce a result, Putin will be able to continue threatening with the scenario of blocked grain deliveries causing hunger and mass migration towards Europe. ... Deals among strong men are rarely good news.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

The Kremlin alone is to blame

The Kremlin's strategy could hardly be more cynical, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments angrily:

“First Russia blocks Ukrainian ports, stops even exports of its grain, and then also robs Ukraine of its harvests. Every single step is another Russian declaration of war, in this case against the food security of many people. The warlords in the Kremlin then brazenly claim that the sanctions imposed on Russia are to blame for the impending famine in many countries. Yet grain exports from Russia are not subject to any sanctions. ... Russia alone is responsible for the suffering of so many people.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Wheat only comes with propaganda

La Stampa is also indignant:

“A three-way battle is being waged over the grain stored in the silos on the Black Sea. Ukraine produced it. Africa expects it. Russia controls it. The acting chairperson of the African Union, Macky Sall of Senegal, went to knock on the Kremlin's door and found a friendly Russian president. ... In Moscow's version, the problem does not exist. The Ukrainians are unable to export their grain? Russia is ready to do this for them from the ports it has shelled with its cannons. But for that to happen the mine barriers must be removed in the areas that Kyiv still controls - especially around Odessa. ... And Russian exports of fertiliser and grain, which are also important for Africa and which [according to the Kremlin] are blocked due to EU sanctions, must be unblocked. ”

Kommersant (RU) /

Big politics hindering pragmatic solutions

A deal would be easier to reach with a little less politicking, Radio Kommersant FM believes:

“Moscow has indicated that it would be good if the sanctions were lifted at least partially. The West and the UN have replied: Okay, perhaps we'll make an exception for potash fertiliser. ... But that is far too little for the Kremlin. The US says that haggling is inappropriate here. Russia, for its part, suggests that it itself could replace Ukraine as the largest grain exporter. This is why the representatives of certain African states recently visited Sochi. Washington immediately accused Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain, and warned potential buyers that they had better not purchase it.”