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War in Ukraine: Grain exports remain risky

Status: 01.08.2022 04:01

The delivery of grain from Ukraine continues to face enormous difficulties. Russia’s war makes shipping nearly impossible. Nevertheless, several convoys are scheduled to leave today.

By Andrea Beer, ARD Studio Moscow, currently Odessa

Yevheni stands on the beach in the small town of Chornomorsk and looks along the shore towards the port. “When ships sail, you can see it well from here,” he says. “We see the harbor over there, the lighthouse, and you usually see the ships going off. Where the cranes are, they usually go off – now you can’t see anything.”

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Yevheni is 26 and actually in the marketing industry. Now, with other volunteers, he takes care of the Ukrainian army and people in need, near the front, but also in his hometown of Chornomorsk. “Berlin” is written on his black baseball hat.

Access to the sea blocked

The small cafe is open, but the long, bright, sandy beach is empty and green weeds shoot up. The entrances to the sea are blocked with NATO wire. And such a wire has also been unrolled directly on the deep blue water. Entering and swimming are strictly forbidden, every few meters red mine signs warn of the deadly danger in the water. A few beach walkers still have suspiciously wet hair.

The first freighters are scheduled to depart today

A spokesman for Turkish President Erdogan said on Sunday that it was likely that the first freighters could cast off today. It is not yet officially clear on the Ukrainian side when the convoy with the first 16 grain carriers will leave the Ukrainian Black Sea ports involved.

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From the Ukrainian point of view, export involves high risks. Danger looms from incalculable Russian rocket attacks and Moscow’s warships in the Black Sea. Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said on Sunday that Russia is capable of anything: “It is clear that we are exporting under difficult conditions, but there is no other option,” he says.

The first planned convoy of ships with almost 600,000 tons of grain will travel around 320 nautical miles from Odessa to Istanbul – around 600 kilometers. He is monitored from the control center in Istanbul. Online – with drones and via satellite. To protect the south from Russian attacks, Ukraine mined the ports at the beginning of the war – and now has to ensure safe corridors.

High risk, expensive insurance

Dmytro Bodnariuk from Odessa knows the oceans like the back of his hand and assesses the situation as follows: “I worked as a captain for many years, and in November 2019 I brought grain from Ukraine to China from the Kherson region. So I know how it is going, and now it’s a difficult thing, because the port was mined. It’s all very difficult – if they made the corridor for the ships and really offer them safety, they can go. It’s very good for Ukraine, very important.”

Because of the risks, insurance is correspondingly expensive. According to the Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture, Mykola Solsky, the amount was agreed. The rates were initially more expensive because many companies and ship owners would wait and see how the first exports went, Solsky told the Ukrainian news agency “Ukrinform”.

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Politicians, insurance companies, shipping companies, foreign and Ukrainian grain trading companies or Ukrainian farmers – they all count on it working out.

“Let’s go a little further,” says Yevheni, strolling along the beach in Chornomorsk. The basis for the export is a Ukrainian-Russian agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. During this time, the Ukrainian ports were not supposed to be attacked, but a day later rockets hit the port of Odessa.

“Over there you can see Odessa, the houses, the church and where the rockets hit, we saw everything from here,” says Yevheni. On Sunday evening, two Iskander missiles hit another quarry in Odessa. The Odessa City Council said they were shot down by the Russian-annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Ukraine: Waiting for grain exports

Andrea Beer, ARD Moscow, August 1, 2022 7:57 a.m

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