Ukraine and Russia have signed a UN-backed agreement to allow millions of tons of grain to be exported from blockaded Black Sea ports, potentially averting a catastrophic global food crisis.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, who had played a key role during months of tense negotiations, attended a signing ceremony at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul.
In remarks at the ceremony, Guterres stated that the agreement would pave the way for significant volumes of food exports from Ukraine, alleviating a food and economic crisis in the developing world. He declared that “the beacon of hope was shining brightly in the Black Sea” and urged Russia and Ukraine to fully implement the agreement.
There is widespread scepticism in Kyiv about Russia’s intentions, but Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Ukraine was relying on the UN and Turkey to enforce the agreement.
The agreement aims to ensure the passage of grain and essential goods such as sunflower oil from three Ukrainian ports, including Odesa, even as the country’s war rages elsewhere. The United Nations had warned that the war could lead to widespread malnutrition, hunger, and famine.
The agreement also seeks to ensure the safe passage of Russian-made fertilizer products, which are critical for ensuring future high crop yields, as part of efforts to alleviate a global food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
UN officials said preliminary grain shipments could begin as soon as Saturday, with the goal of returning to prewar levels of export from the three Ukrainian ports – a rate of 5 million metric tonnes per month – within weeks.