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Secret springs of the grain deal, - Oleksiy Kushch

Moscow has withdrawn from the "grain deal" - an agreement signed a year ago separately by Russia and Ukraine with the UN and Turkey on the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. Options for renewing the Black Sea grain initiative are being discussed in Turkey right now. The Grain Agreement is an international agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN on the export of grain from Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea. Why has Russia abandoned the agreement now and is there any hope for the agreement to be renewed? These and other questions were answered in an interview with by Oleksiy Kushch, an expert at the United Ukraine Analytical Center. The text of the interview is available below.

- Can Moscow return to the grain deal? There is an opinion that dependence on Turkey will force the Russian authorities to reverse and renew the agreement.

- We are now witnessing what is supposedly the second historical stage of legalization of the agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain, concluded to prevent the risk of a global food crisis. The first stage, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, is history, and Russia has actually withdrawn from its part of the agreement. As you know, it consists of two parts: the first is an agreement between the UN, Ukraine and Turkey, and the second is an agreement between Turkey and Russia. And now there is likely to be a short pause in this agreement. It will last until August, because next month President Putin will visit Turkey to discuss this issue face to face. Until then, the grain corridor will not function, and after the meeting between the heads of Russia and Turkey, Russia will most likely unofficially and by default continue to operate the grain corridor. Moscow will not officially announce its decision, and the grain corridor will operate under the protection of the Turkish navy on the basis of an agreement between the UN and Ukraine.

Going behind the scenes?

- Do you think that the agreement will operate secretly and in a unilateral format, and Moscow will not obstruct the passage of Ukrainian ships?

- This option has been repeatedly voiced. For example, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the grain deal could work without Russia's participation. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and other Ukrainian officials have also pointed to the possibility of such a unilateral model. For this purpose, a shipowners' risk guarantee fund and some naval instruments to protect the grain corridor are being created. For example, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, and the commander of the Navy, Oleksiy Neizhpapa, have been given the relevant orders.

By and large, Ankara could unilaterally ensure the security of the grain corridor. After all, Turkey already dominates the western part of the Black Sea, and the operation of the grain corridor, which has been guarded by the Turkish Navy all this time, has become a kind of military exercise to dominate the western part of the Black Sea. Most likely, Turkey will not go anywhere from there and will continue to exercise its geopolitical dominance there. Perhaps some counterproposals will be made to Vladimir Putin to make him turn a blind eye to this model of a grain corridor. It is hard to say what they will be. Perhaps they will be related to Turkey's role as an energy hub, as well as the export of Russian mineral fertilizers, grain, etc.

Everything is just unfolding

- But is it possible to hide such a large-scale lie? So Russia will let Ukrainian ships through, and the domestic audience will be told that the country is no longer participating in the grain deal?

- This is exactly what will happen. The government's propaganda will present all this to the domestic audience as a manifestation of Russia's alleged strength, but in reality, Russia will let Ukrainian grain carriers through. In fact, Russians are not interested in information about the grain deal at all, and propaganda TV channels raise this topic only in the context of some of their propaganda tasks. Now they will simply remove the data on cargo ships operating in the Black Sea ports from the information field. I don't think anyone will mention this much.

- And what then makes Moscow want to disrupt the grain deal - why would it withdraw from the agreement in order to participate in it covertly?

- The fact is that there is a certain critical mass of negative attitudes toward the grain corridor in Russia's internal propaganda environment. For a long time, a significant part of radicalized Russian society has criticized the president for his softness: they say that the grain corridor is working, and Russia is not getting anything for it. Against the backdrop of the recent Wagner PMC rebellion, the attack on the Crimean bridge, and other events, the Russian leader needs to show his strength, subjectivity, and prompt response. That is why Putin needed to withdraw from the grain deal right now to strengthen his domestic position in Russia. The recent arrest of the same Girkin (former Defense Minister of the so-called "DPR" Igor Strelkov - Ed.) confirms that Putin is moving to more active actions.

A knot of geopolitical risks

- There is one more aspect of the actions: Russia is consistently moving its grain logistics to the Baltic...

- Indeed, a very significant portion of Russian grain is now moving to the Baltic Sea. Transshipment there is doubling every year and, judging by the plans, will reach 20-25 million tons, which is half of the sea transshipment. According to the official version of the Russian side, all this is due to the high load on the logistics of the Black Sea ports. But most likely, a knot of geopolitical risks is forming in the Black Sea right now. This is what Russia is preparing for.

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