On March 16, Kyiv hosted a panel discussion “The security of the Black Sea as a guarantee of global food security” with the participation of Ukrainian experts, government officials, and agrarians.
The participants discussed the local and global risks of russia’s control of the Black Sea and international trade routes. They also discussed the violation of international maritime law and the need for immediate demilitarization of the Black Sea, which is now effectively closed to international shipping by the russian aggressor.
“When we talk about food security in the world, we must first and foremost talk about Freedom of navigation (FON). Because neither road, rail, nor even air transport can replace maritime transport. We cannot talk about Freedom of navigation in times of war. During the recent air alert, we looked at the map of Ukraine, it was colored red, and the Black Sea has been “red” for a year. The russians have actually closed the Black Sea to free navigation. In fact, the Black Sea is a red spot on the map of international shipping”.— noted Pavlo Lakijchuk, Head of Security Programs at the Center “Strategy XXI”, retired Captain of the 1st ran.
According to Pavlo Lakijchuk, the russians took the grain deal because they can control traffic at the exit from the Black Sea. Together with the Turks, their representatives inspect ships and influence the number of vessels that are allowed to pass. This is another tool for blackmail.
“russia is using the merchant marine to transport missiles and military cargo. Experts in Turkey, and the United States understand what is happening and what is being transported. It is very well visible with the help of satellites. The international community does not react to the facts of russia’s violation of the Montreux Convention. Which clearly states that non-combat vessels are equated with warships if they perform an auxiliary function. At the same time, russians continue to detain ships carrying grain and those entering the Black Sea. There is no question of any safety and Freedom of navigation”.— said Bohdan Ustymenko, an expert in international maritime law and navigation.
Bohdan Ustymenko also noted that the political will of the Turkish government and pressure from the international community can influence and resolve this situation.
“Ukraine’s position remains unchanged, there will be no concessions, no reaction to this grain blackmail from russia. We understand that russia wants to bargain from this situation — it wants to ease the financial sanctions that hinder them. That is why these information attacks are taking place. But we stand our ground. Our partners support us in this”.— added Olha Trofimtseva, Ambassador at Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chair of the Assembly of Agrarian Chambers of Ukraine, and President of the Ukrainian Agro-Industrial Platform.
By Olha Trofimtseva, Ukraine’s priority is to restore port infrastructure, extend the grain deal for 120 days as previously agreed, and in term fully demilitarize the Black Sea and restore shipping. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is working with partners in this direction.
“Before the full-scale invasion, we, Ukrainians, did not realize how important the sea is for us and how important we are for the world. We feed nearly 400 million people around the world, we feed many low-income countries in Africa and Asia”.— said Yulia Klymenko, Member of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, First Deputy Head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Transport and Infrastructure, Co-Chair of the Maritime Economy and Security NGO.
Yulia Klymenko told that today Ukrainian MPs are working on a systemic maritime strategy for Ukraine and are denouncing maritime agreements with russia so that Ukraine can finally become a maritime power.
“We expect that overall agricultural production will be at the level of the previous year, with the structure possibly changing. The food security of our country will be ensured, we produce more than we can consume. And as for the impact on the global market, we will be able to fulfill all our obligations if the grain corridor works”.— said Mykola Moroz, Head of the Agricultural Export and Logistics Department at the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine.
The negative impact of Russia’s cutoff of grain supplies from Ukraine can affect 350 million people, and about a billion more people around the world will be undernourished.
“When the movement through the seaports started on August 1, it gave us more hope. The first months of work were intense and important. Already in October, we saw that we were able to reach the pre-war level, as we exported up to 4 million tons of grain through the ports of Odesa. Taking into account alternative routes, we exported 6.5 million tons in total”.— shared Denys Marchuk, Deputy Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council.
From the words of Denys Marchuk, confidence in the operation of the grain corridor under preliminary agreements allows agrarians to plan the sowing season and forecast the required harvest volumes.
The event was organized by ICUV, ANTS, and Ukraine Media Center Kyiv.