On Nov. 2, Moscow made a quick U-turn and rejoined a United Nations (UN) grain deal, days after it had said it would withdraw from it.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West that the country could still back off from the deal should aggression in the Black Sea continue.
Grain deal resumed
As the war in Ukraine rages on, Russia has gone back and forth on a grain deal , one of the few attempts at cooperation by the embattled nation. Moscow’s reason as to why it rejoined the deal is currently unknown, but the Kremlin claimed that Ukraine gave written assurances that it would not violate a contested route in the Black Sea.
“Russia retains the right to leave these agreements if these guarantees from Ukraine are violated,” Putin said.
Days after Russia withdrew from the deal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed the turnover after a call between the defense ministers of both Russia and Turkey. Russian media later confirmed the news.
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The withdrawal came as Russia blamed Ukraine on Saturday for using a grain shipping route to attack. An explosion occurred on the Kerch Strait Bridge to the Crimea region, which Moscow claimed was perpetrated by Ukrainian forces. This was followed by a Ukrainian strike on the Russian Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol.
Despite the suspension, ships from the UN, Turkey and Ukraine continued to transport grain. An estimated 354,000 tonnes of food left Ukraine on Oct. 31 alone. Ukrainian officials said that because other countries were willing to carry on, Moscow may have been pressured to turn around.
“The Kremlin itself fell into a trap from which it did not know how to get out,” Tatiana Stanovaya, analyst of Kremlin politics, wrote on Telegram.
Global wheat prices skyrocketed after Russia’s withdrawal, prompting world leaders to call for Russia to rejoin the deal.
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The grain deal was made between the UN and Turkey in July, ending a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports that restricted grain exports from the country. With the deal in effect, ships are given access to a safe route, and are inspected in Turkey before entering the Bosphorus Strait.
On Nov. 19, the deal is scheduled to end, though it could be extended. Since Aug. 3, 9.8 million tonnes of grain, oil and soya beans were successfully shipped out of Ukraine in more than 400 shipments.
Amir Abdulla, the UN official behind the grain deal, praised Turkey for its mediation role and commended Russia for changing its mind.
However, Putin warned that Russia could pull out of the deal again, vowing to send its own exports of food should they agree to withdraw, Reuters reported.
The Kremlin said that Putin spoke with Erdogan about an investigation into the Black Sea fleet attack the day before the deal was resumed.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock believes that Russia simply backed down due to international pressure after trying to use grain as a hostage.
“The world community has made clear: No, we don’t believe your lies, we will continue to send ships… so the poorest in the world do not have to suffer so massively from this war of aggression,” Baerbock said.