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Grain hypocrisy: Russia keeps on destroying Ukrainian grain export routes as Putin pledges assistance and corridors

In Mykolaiv, two missiles hit one of Ukraine’s largest private seaports, the Nika-Tera Specialized Seaport owned by oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Large merchant ships had been loaded there with grain, Pavel Koval, general director of the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, told The Insider. Russia also continues to target the railroad routes used for the delivery of produce to ports for export – on the Danube bridges, in Central Ukraine and other regions.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin assures that Russia is ready to help export Ukrainian grain to overcome the global food crisis that began after Russia had seized Black Sea ports.

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The second largest grain terminal in Ukraine

Firtash’s Nika-Tera is one of Ukraine’s largest private ports and second largest grain terminal, specializing in the transshipment of grain, leguminous and oil crops, as well as oil and mineral fertilizers.

The port is located on the left bank of the Bug estuary, 34 miles from the sea. The navigable Bug-Dnieper-Liman channel leads to it, useable by ships with a declared draft of up to 10.3 meters at any time of day throughout the year without interruption of navigation in winter, according to the grain traders’ website. In ice conditions, ships are escorted by caravans. The port has eight berths and can simultaneously handle up to four Panamax-type vessels . The port’s total grain storage capacity is 515,000 tons. In the pre-crisis year 2019, the port handled nearly 9 million tons of produce.

According to firefighters, a missile strike on June 4 destroyed two silos - after a direct missile hit, the solvent-extracted meal stored in the silo caught fire. Pavlo Koval, general director of the Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, told The Insider that was not the first strike on Nika-Tera, the damage was serious, and it would take a long time to restore the infrastructure.

“This was not the only strike on the port’s cargo infrastructure, it is being deliberately destroyed.”

“Large merchant ships that could carry bulk commodities - wheat grain, barley, corn, soybeans and other goods – were loaded there,” Koval said. “Now that infrastructure is gone. If the loading facilities are damaged, if the unloading and railroad facilities are damaged, if the grain preparation and fumigation facilities are destroyed - volumes and systematic work will be required. Imagine how many railroad trains it takes to fill a single ship. Plus, the enemy has mined the area. So, the demining process will not be quick. This was not the only strike on the port’s cargo infrastructure, it is being deliberately destroyed. If bombs are dropped while a ship is being loaded, and if it happens all the time, and there’s also government control – either the prices will go up because of insurance, or a military convoy will be required, which is also quite expensive. No suitable procedure exists except for the World War II lend-lease.”

“Putin uses grain corridors as a provocation prior to missile strikes.”

Putin’s war in Ukraine has caused a food crisis in many countries around the world that depend on Ukrainian and Russian grain exports. The Russian president himself demands that Europe lift sanctions against Russia in exchange for grain exports. According to the Russian authorities, grain shipments have been blocked by Ukraine, while Russia is ready to set up grain corridors. Putin and Alexander Lukashenko offered to use Belarus and its railroads for the transit of grain to Baltic Sea ports. In exchange, it was stressed that the ports should be opened for Belarusian goods.

“Of course, all the talk of Russia being ready to unblock and facilitate food exports from Ukraine is a provocation by the aggressor,” Pavel Koval says. “Russian troops have been attacking the railway infrastructure – the Danube bridges, Central Ukraine and other regions. So far, Ukraine has had no reason to trust representatives of the aggressor.
Next, they say there are countries that agree to act as intermediaries in Ukraine’s grain trade. One of them is in talks with the aggressor. It is hard to trust such statements, because one can imagine the transportation costs, the cost of freight insurance. How profitable will it be from the economic point of view for our producers and exporters? It is a complex question.
How many mines are there [in the Black Sea]? What kind of hostilities will be conducted offshore and near the coastal areas themselves? Today the issue of unblocking the ports is urgent. It is necessary to agree on those issues with the military: are they ready to demine the water areas and create such corridors without trusting the aggressor as to its readiness and capabilities? Besides, there are aviation assets on the Crimean Peninsula. If a corridor is opened, there will be a provocation - to make Ukraine look like an unreliable importer.
Who will guarantee that after the demining of the area near Odessa there will be no military threat from the ”partner“ who lies, deceives and violates agreements? It’s an aggressor who wages a war by any available means, including information warfare, including using food as an instrument of blackmail and war, a bad move in any war, a violation of all conventions of warfare and international trade”.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell called Putin’s statements about assistance and corridors “cynical disinformation” after the Nika-Tera strike: “Another Russian missile strike contributing to the global food crisis. Russian forces have destroyed the second-biggest grain terminal in Ukraine, in Mykolaiv. In light of such reports, the disinformation spread by Putin deflecting blame becomes ever more cynical.”

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