Latest news about the war between Russia and Ukraine: live updates

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

BRUSSELS — There are many moving parts in the grain deal that reached Russia and Ukraine that officials believed wasn’t even possible until mid-June, not least because the war continues and trust between the parties is extremely low.

Here’s what you need to know about the grain problem and how to deal with it now.

Why was Ukrainian grain stuck in the country?

After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, it deployed warships along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. Ukraine mined those waters to deter a Russian naval attack. That meant that ports used to export Ukrainian grain were blocked from commercial shipping. Russia also looted grain stocks, cleared grain fields so that they could not be harvested, and destroyed grain storage facilities.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

How will the operation go?

Ukrainian captains will send ships full of grain from the ports of Odessa, Yuzhne and Chornomorsk.

A joint command center with officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations will be set up immediately in Istanbul to monitor every movement of the fleets.

Note: the arrow marks the general direction of travel; it does not represent

exact route. Source: European and other government officials

Note: the arrow marks the general direction of travel; it does not represent

exact route. Source: European and other government officials

The ships will enter Turkish waters to be inspected by a joint team of Turkish, UN, Ukrainian and Russian officials, then deliver their cargoes to destinations around the world, returning for another inspection by the joint team before they return to Ukraine.

The agreement specifies that the inspection team’s primary responsibility is to check for “unauthorized cargoes and personnel on board ships entering or leaving Ukrainian ports”. An important Russian requirement was that the returning ships should not carry weapons to Ukraine.

The parties have agreed that the ships and port facilities used for their operations will be protected from hostilities.

The operation is expected to begin shipping five million tons of grains per month soon. At that rate, and given that 2.5 million tons are already being transported by land and river to Ukraine’s friendly neighbors, stockpiles of nearly 20 million tons should be cleared within three to four months. This frees up space in the storage facilities for the new harvest already underway in Ukraine.

What are the risks?

No broad ceasefire has been agreed, so the ships will sail through war zones. Attacks on the ships or in the ports they use can unravel the agreement. Another risk would be a breach of trust or disagreement between inspectors and joint commands.

The role of the United Nations and Turkey is to mediate on the ground in such disagreements and to monitor and enforce the agreement. The agreement is valid for 120 days and the UN hopes it will be extended.

Credit…Sergey Bobok/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Will this immediately solve world hunger and lower food prices?

No. World hunger is a constant problem caused by poor food distribution and price manipulation that affects some parts of the world year after year. It is often exacerbated by conflict and has also been affected by climate change. The war in Ukraine, which produces much of the world’s wheat, put enormous pressure on grain distribution networks, pushed up prices and fueled hunger.

Officials say the deal has the potential to increase the flow of wheat to Somalia within weeks, avoiding a full-blown famine, and should lead to a gradual decline in global grain prices. But given the fragility of the deal, grain markets are unlikely to return to normal immediately.

What’s in it for Russia?

Russia is also a major exporter of grains and fertilizers and the agreement should make it easier to sell those goods on the world market.

The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed that its supplies cannot be exported due to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.

The measures don’t actually affect those goods, but private shipping companies, insurers, banks and other companies have been reluctant to help Russia export grains and fertilizers, fearing they could face sanctions or that doing business with Russia would harm them. reputation would be damaged.

Reassuringly, the European Union issued a legal clarification on its sanctions on July 21, stating that several banks and other companies involved in the grain trade were not, in fact, banned.

Armed with similar assurances from the United States, the United Nations said it was holding talks with the private sector, and that trade from Russia — especially the Russian port city of Novorossiysk — should accelerate.


July 22, 2022

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the process agreed between Ukraine and Russia for the grain ships. The ships will carry their cargo to various destinations and return to Ukrainian ports, where they will stop for inspections in Turkey. Their cargo will not necessarily be unloaded in Turkey to be transported to their destination by other ships.

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