Russia deliberately sabotaged grain deal, leak shows
Russia’s key goal in the grain deal was sabotaging it as much as possible, preventing Ukrainian grain from being shipped from besieged Black Sea ports, a new leak suggests.
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A secret report, intercepted and made public by Ukraine’s defence intelligence, GUR, reveals the extent of Moscow’s efforts to further leverage its role in the grain corridor as it has been waging full-scale war against Ukraine for more than a year.
The report, titled ‘On the work of the Russian part of the joint coordination centre during the implementation of the initiative’, shows Russia initially considered its participation in the Black Sea grain initiative as creating opportunities for sabotage.
It focuses on the efforts Moscow has resorted to to hinder the operation of the grain corridor, which eventually led to its breakdown.
In particular, Russian representatives at the joint coordination centre, tasked with inspecting ships bound to and from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, had been tasked with minimising the amount of grain exported.
"High-quality inspection of vessels was also one of the key elements in curbing the uncontrolled growth of grain exports from Ukrainian ports. At the same time, the Russian inspectors acted in strict accordance with the developed methodological documents on the organisation of ship inspections," the report reads.
"As a result of the inspections, 46 vessels were restricted from participating in the Initiative and 303 vessels were restricted for a total of 342 days."
The measures designed to disrupt the grain deal were divided into several stages.
First, Russia suspended its participation in the agreement from 29 October to 3 November 2022, which, the report reads, led to a drop in grain exports from 4.2 million tonnes in October to 2.6 million tonnes in November.
Then, measures were taken to restrict the access of ships to the port of Pivdennyi, reduce the number of inspection teams, and suspend the registration of grain carriers. This gave the Russians the opportunity to "significantly limit the volume of food exports from Ukraine, which in general has led to the impossibility of exporting about 20 million tonnes of cargo through Kyiv," per the report.
"The smallest amount of food exported from Ukrainian ports, 7.8 million tonnes, occurred during the third phase of the initiative (from 19 March to 17 July 2023)," the document notes.
Russia’s efforts were also aimed at hindering the implementation of another initiative, Grain from Ukraine, under the World Food Programme, which, per the intercepted report, has "been stopped".
The report concludes that "all actions to disrupt the grain deal are part of a single pre-designed plan", and "the targeted shelling of Ukrainian port infrastructure is just another step in its implementation", GUR said in a statement.
On July 17, 2023, Russia announced its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, adding that it would not give guarantees of non-attack on civilian vessels after that date. On the same day, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered the UN and Turkey to continue the work of the corridor without Russia.
After that, Russia attacked Odesa for several nights in a row, causing serious damage to the ports in Odesa and Chornomorsk, which worked within the corridor.