Thursday 9th of February 2023

no pain, no grain....

So, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan picks up the phone and calls his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin: let’s talk about the “grain deal.” Putin, cool, calm and collected, explains the facts to the Sultan:

First, the reason why Russia withdrew from the export grain deal.

Second, how Moscow seeks a serious investigation into the – terrorist – attack on the Black Sea fleet, which for all practical purposes seems to have violated the deal.




And third, how Kiev must guarantee it will uphold the deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN.

Only then would Russia consider coming back to the table.

And then – today, 2 November – the coup de theatre: Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announces the country is back to the Black Sea grain deal, after receiving the necessary written guarantees from Kiev.

The MoD, quite diplomatically, praised the “efforts” of both Turkey and the UN: Kiev is committed not to use the “Maritime Humanitarian Corridor” for combat operations, and only in accordance with the provisions of the Black Sea Initiative.

Moscow said the guarantees are sufficient “for the time being.” Implying that can always change.


All rise to the Sultan’s persuasion

Erdogan must have been extremely persuasive with Kiev. Before the phone call to Putin, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) had already explained that the attack on the Black Sea Fleet was conducted by 9 aerial drones and 7 naval drones, plus an American RQ-4B Global Hawk observation drone lurking in the sky over neutral waters.

The attack happened under the cover of civilian ships and targeted Russian vessels that escorted the grain corridor in the perimeter of their responsibility, as well as the infrastructure of the Russian base in Sevastopol.

The MoD explicitly designated British experts deployed in the Ochakov base in the Nikolaev region as the designers of this military operation.




At the UN Security Council, Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzya declared himself “surprised” that the UN leadership “failed not only to condemn, but even to express concern over the terrorist attacks.”

After stating that the Brit-organized Kiev operation on the Black Sea Fleet “put an end to the humanitarian dimension of the Istanbul agreements,” Nebenzya also clarified:

“It is our understanding that the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine agreed on under UN supervision on 22 July, must not be implemented without Russia, and so we do not view the decisions that were made without our involvement as binding.”

This means, in practice, that Moscow “cannot allow for unimpeded passage of vessels without our inspection.” The crucial question is how and where these inspections will be carried out – as Russia has warned the UN that it will definitely inspect dry cargo ships in the Black Sea.

The UN, for its part, tried at best to put on a brave face, believing Russia’s suspension is “temporary” and looking forward to welcoming “its highly professional team” back to the Joint Coordination Center.

According to humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, the UN also proclaims to be “ready to address concerns.” And that has to be soon, because the deal reaches its 120-day extension point on November 19.

Well, “addressing concerns” is not exactly the case. Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia Dmitry Polyansky said that at the UN Security Council meeting western nations simply could not deny their involvement in the Sevastopol attack; instead, they simply blamed Russia.


All the way to Odessa

Prior to the phone call with Erdogan, Putin had already pointed out that “34 percent of the grain exported under the deal goes to Turkey, 35 percent to EU countries and only 3-4 percent to the poorest countries. Is this what we did everything for?”

That’s correct. For instance, 1.8 million tons of grain went to Spain; 1.3 million tons to Turkey; and 0.86 million tons to Italy. By contrast, only 0,067 tons went to “starving” Yemen and 0,04 tons to “starving” Afghanistan.

Putin made it very clear that Moscow was not withdrawing from the grain deal but had only suspended its participation.

And as a further gesture of good will, Moscow announced it would willingly ship 500,000 tons of grain to poorer nations for free, in an effort to replace the integral amount that Ukraine should have been able to export.

All this time, Erdogan skillfully maneuvered to convey the impression he was occupying the higher ground: even if Russia behaves in an “indecisive” manner, as he defined it, we will continue to pursue the grain deal.

So, it seems like Moscow was being tested – by the UN and by Ankara, which happens to be the main beneficiary of the grain deal and is clearly profiting from this economic corridor. Ships continue to depart from Odessa to Turkish ports – mainly Istanbul – without Moscow’s agreement. It was expected they would be “filtered” by Russia when coming back to Odessa.

The immediate Russian means of pressure was unleashed in no time: preventing Odessa from becoming a terrorist infrastructure node. This means constant visits by cruise missiles.

Well, the Russians have already “visited” the Ochakov base occupied by Kiev and the British experts. Ochakov – between Nikolaev and Odessa – was built way back in 2017, with key American input.

The British units that were involved in the sabotage of the Nord Streams – according to Moscow – are the same ones that planned the Sevastopol operation. Ochakov is constantly spied upon and sometimes hit out of positions that the Russians have cleared last month only 8 km to the south, on the extremity of the Kinburn peninsula. And yet the base has not been totally destroyed.

To reinforce the “message,” the real response to the attack on Sevastopol has been this week’s relentless “visits” of Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure; if maintained, virtually the whole of Ukraine will soon be plunged into darkness.


Closing down the Black Sea

The attack on Sevastopol may have been the catalyst leading to a Russian move to close down the Black Sea – with Odessa converted into an absolutely priority for the Russian Army. There are serious rumblings across Russia on why Russophone Odessa had not been the object of pinpointed targeting before.

Top infrastructure for Ukrainian Special Forces and British advisers is based in Odessa and Nikolaev. Now there’s no question these will be destroyed.

Even with the grain deal in theory back on track, it is hopeless to expect Kiev to abide by any agreements. After all, every major decision is taken either by Washington or by the Brits at NATO. Just like bombing the Crimea Bridge, and then the Nord Streams, attacking the Black Sea Fleet was designed as a serious provocation.

The brilliant designers though seem to have IQs lower than refrigerator temperatures: every Russian response always plunges Ukraine deeper down an inescapable – and now literally black – hole.

The grain deal seemed to be a sort of win-win. Kiev would not contaminate Black Sea ports again after they were demined. Turkey turned into a grain transport hub for the poorest nations (actually that’s not what happened: the main beneficiary was the EU). And sanctions on Russia were eased on the export of agricultural products and fertilizers.

This was, in principle, a boost for Russian exports. In the end, it did not work out because many players were worried about possible secondary sanctions.

It is important to remember that the Black Sea grain deal is actually two deals: Kiev signed a deal with Turkey and the UN, and Russia signed a separate deal with Turkey.

The corridor for the grain carriers is only 2 km wide. Minesweepers move in parallel along the corridor. Ships are inspected by Ankara. So the Kiev-Ankara-UN deal remains in place. It has nothing to do with Russia – which in this case does not escort and/or inspect the cargoes.

What changes with Russia “suspending” its own deal with Ankara and the UN, is that from now on, Moscow can proceed anyway it deems fit to neutralize terrorist threats and even invade and take over Ukrainian ports: that will not represent a violation of the deal with Ankara and the UN.

So in this respect, it is a game-changer.

Seems like Erdogan fully understood the stakes, and told Kiev in no uncertain terms to behave. There’s no guarantee, though, that western powers won’t come up with another Black Sea provocation. Which means that sooner or later – perhaps by the Spring of 2023 – General Armageddon will have to come up with the goods. That translates as advancing all the way to Odessa






SEE ALSO: a beacon of freedom......


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UN is dragging the grain deal....

Russia considers the expiration date of the Ukraine grain deal a “natural deadline” for the UN to show progress in delivering on its commitments to Russia to unblock its agricultural exports, a senior Russian diplomat told a newspaper.

“The UN tells us that the result is imminent,” Dmitry Polyansky, Russian deputy representative to the UN, was quoted as saying on Monday by Izvestia. “Our decision [on whether to prolong the Ukraine grain scheme] will take into account the fulfilment of the Russian part of the deal.”


The diplomat was referring to an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by Türkiye and the UN and signed in July, which allowed Kiev to export its crops via the Black Sea. The UN pledged to encourage the US and its allies lift restrictions, which Moscow says hamper its own export of food and fertilizers. Russian merchants have only limited access to banking and maritime insurance due to Western sanctions.

The part of the deal that describes Ukrainian grain exports has a 120-day term, which ends on November 18. Russia has not committed to prolonging the pact, and its officials previously criticized various parts of the arrangement, including the UN’s failure to deliver on its pledge.








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grainy deal......


BY Oleg Pavlov


The end of October was hot. In the early hours of the morning of October 29, Ukrainian aerial drones and underwater drones attacked the Russian naval base in Sevastopol. The attack was repelled, although some ships were damaged, but it had severe political and economic consequences. The Ministry of Defense, followed by the Russian Foreign Ministry, announced the suspension of the so-called grain deal. The deal had been struck on July 22 this year by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UN to alleviate the plight of the poorest countries, mainly in Africa, which were threatened with famine because, as claimed by the West and international officials, millions of tons of Ukraine’s last harvested grain were blocked at Ukrainian ports as a result of military action in Ukraine.

On paper, however, the deal was supposed to be more balanced and fair: millions of tonnes of Russian grain and fertilizers, already blocked because of unilateral and totally illegal Western sanctions against Russia, were to be unblocked as well. And given that Russia is a much larger supplier of grain and fertilizers to world markets, primarily African and Asian ones, it was these sanctions that posed the main threat of famine to the poorest countries.

In practice, however, all the promises of the UN and its Secretary-General Guterres, who invested his own political and moral capital in the deal, turned out to be empty. Russia clearly fulfilled all its obligations: it lifted the naval blockade on ships carrying grain, did not bombard seaports where grain was being loaded, ensured that commercial ships were escorted by its navy, and allowed millions of tonnes of wheat, maize and other grains to leave Odessa and other southern Ukrainian ports. A total of about 9 million tonnes of grain had been exported as of October 29.

The other side, namely the UN and the countries of the “collective West”, have not kept all their promises. The Russian President called it a “brazen deception.” While formally stating that Western sanctions do not apply to the export of food and fertilizers, Western “partners” have not lifted a finger to connect SWIFT to Russian banks, which ensure transactions in agricultural products, above all Rosselkhozbank, nor allow Russian ships to call at European ports, as before. These vessels are not insured and thus have no ability to travel unhindered on international maritime routes at all.

By the end of October, it turned out that out of more than 390 ships carrying grain that had left Odessa and nearby ports, according to the UN, only 7 or 8 ships reached the African coast and those 2% of Ukrainian grain ended up in just a few African countries: Egypt, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. More than 150 ships carrying Ukrainian grain have left for a rich and prosperous Europe. It can be assumed that this grain will later be resold by practical Europeans to the same Africans, but at a different price. In other words, by importing almost all of Ukraine’s grain to itself and preventing Russian food sales, the West has taken African and other countries firmly by the throat, threatening them with the bony hand of famine.

But at the same time, a terrible and thoroughly hypocritical disinformation attack was launched by the Western powers. There have been statements, including from EU foreign policy chief J. Borrell, that Russia’s decision “puts at risks the main export route of much needed grain and fertilizers to address the global food crisis.” The European Union, via social media (sic!), has called on Moscow to reconsider its decision to suspend its participation in the Ukrainian grain export deal. More rude and boorish statements followed from Kiev, but they have long caused nothing but a sarcastic smile among serious people.

US President J. Biden was less diplomatic and, without blinking an eye, called the deal termination “outrageous”, blaming it on Russia without much thought. His Secretary of State, A. Blinken, in a calmer tone, but without referring to the reasons for what happened, regretted the suspension of the agreement and called on the Russian government to renew its participation in the initiative and to act in full compliance with the agreement. However, he completely ignored the terrorist attack on Sevastopol and did not condemn it in any way. A. Guterres did the same. And it should be kept in mind that the naval base of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol is legally Russian territory under all international agreements signed before 2012, and thus recognized by the US as well!

Ukraine’s actions and reactions in general could be talked about at great length. These include the unwarranted and unsubstantiated recent statements by Ukrainian Minister D. Kuleba to a Tanzanian newspaper that more than half of Ukraine’s grain had allegedly gone to Africans. And about the use of Odessa as a route for delivering explosives for the purpose of blowing up the Crimean bridge on October 8 and preparing and carrying out terrorist attacks on the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, which were engaged in guarding their own grain. And much more, not just with the connivance but with the direct complicity of the Anglo-Saxons. The British, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, were training personnel in Ochakov for drone attacks against Sevastopol, while a US Global Hawk strategic drone, which took off from Sicily, was coordinating the attack from just a hundred kilometers off the Crimean coast. It is also clear that the sale of Ukrainian grain allowed Kiev to continue financing its own policy-induced war, which will do no good to Ukraine.

It is already clear that it is not only counterproductive, but also impossible for Russia to continue fulfilling the terms of the grain deal on a unilateral basis in the current circumstances. If Russian ships are being damaged by Ukrainian drones at the base of the Black Sea Fleet itself, how can they provide escort for vessels carrying Ukrainian grain at sea? And politically it would be pure madness, playing into the hands of the enemy.

The clamor raised in the West is once again destined to conceal the real reasons behind the breakdown of the “grain deal”, which was supposed to expire on November 19 anyway (it was originally concluded on July 22 for a period of 120 days). And they are simple: non-compliance by the UN (and in fact Western countries, for which the UN Secretary-General vouched) with the terms of the three-year memorandum that provided for the involvement of this universal organization in the removal of anti-Russian sanctions and restrictions preventing the exports of agricultural fertilizers and grain from Russia. The anti-Russian sanctions have still not been lifted, despite vociferous claims by European officials that they do not apply to grain and fertilizers. In other words, the deal was implemented only to the extent useful to Kiev and its Western partners, but not Russia and the poorest countries in Africa.

The second and quite obvious reason is the attack on the harbor of the Black Sea Fleet, which makes it impossible in the short term for its vessels to safely escort ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports.

What is the way out of this situation? Let’s consider the options available.

The first and most obvious is the rejection of the grain deal, which works “one way only”. It profits Ukraine, allows it to prolong the war and, quite possibly, smuggle munitions on supposedly civilian ships, and provides funds for the purchase of Western arms. As Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, V. Nebenzia, said on October 31, “Russia cannot allow vessels to pass through the Black Sea unhindered without inspection.” Furthermore, at a meeting of the organization’s Security Council, Vasily Nebenzia pointed out that more than 70 vessels had already been found in violation of the rules of the Black Sea grain deal during its operation, including attempts to smuggle in contraband.

The West is now actively replenishing its grain reserves, which gives it yet another lever of political and economic pressure on the poorest countries. Russia, through its Minister of Agriculture D. Patrushev, has declared that it is ready to supply 500,000 tons of grain free of charge to the poorer countries, and in the future to completely replace the supplies from Ukraine, which have already been half as much as from Russia. It should be noted that 25 countries in Africa depend on Russian grain supplies, consuming a third of their food imports. In addition, it must be borne in mind that Ukraine has already exported almost all of its grain, this year’s harvest being almost half of last year’s and the provocation of the Ukrainians and British against the Black Sea Fleet surely assumed that Russia would not extend the grain deal. As for Russia itself, it has a record harvest of 150 million tonnes of grain this year, of which 50 million is ready to be exported, and this could be a stabilizing fund to prevent famine in the world, of which we are falsely accused by its true instigators of organizing.

There are other options as well. In the face of the rejection of the grain deal, Russia could also offer its fertilizers to poor countries, particularly in Africa. In fact, it has already done so: President Putin, speaking at the SCO summit, said that Russia is ready to hand over, free of charge, more than 300,000 tonnes of fertilizers stranded in European ports. And D. Konyaev, Director General of Uralchem, the largest Russian fertilizer company, made a separate statement that his company is ready to start supplying free to African countries and could start with 25,000 tons of fertilizers to Togo.

In fact, Europe is also inclined to believe that it is impossible to implement the grain deal. France’s Minister of Agriculture said on October 31 that the government is working with other EU countries to allow grain exports from Ukraine by land. Realism takes over.

The second option is more complicated: resume the grain deal. But how can this be done practically? First, Russia must find ships to replace the damaged ones to escort the vessels. But is there any guarantee that they will not be attacked again? It is clear that with a regime in Kiev that is hostile to Russia, supported by the British and part of the US elites, and with military action continuing, no one will provide such guarantees.

In addition, it is necessary to ensure, as Nebenzia said, that vessels are inspected in order to prevent new shipments of weapons to Kiev, which would lead to further bloodshed.

Second, as a precondition for the resumption of the Istanbul arrangements, the issue of guarantees to lift sanctions on Russian banks handling grain shipments, insurance for vessels carrying these goods and the possibility of their entry into European ports must be resolved before they can be re-launched. Only when these conditions are met will the deal become equitable and feasible.

But there is reason to believe that neither Ukraine, nor the West, wants this. The bulk of Ukraine’s grain, as noted above, has already been exported and the main political objective of the West today is to blame Russia for the breakdown of agreements that were originally not binding on the West or even the UN, and were mainly aimed at solving their problems…

From this analysis, each reader can draw his or her own conclusions. But it is clear that Russia will rely on its own strength in the future and the poorest countries are advised to do the same and strengthen cooperation with Moscow, if they do not want to fall victim to further manipulation and brazen deception by the collective West.


Oleg Pavlov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.