World leaders are discussing sending warships to the Black Sea to ship Ukrainian grain overseas, a move previously dismissed by NATO commanders.
With the war between Russia and Ukraine extending into its fourth month food prices have been leaping as the world seeks alternate supplies of grain with Ukrainian ports shut.
Estonian president Alar Karis said in an interview with Bloomberg that negotiations are ongoing to create what the Lithuanian foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, told the Guardian newspaper would be a naval coalition “of the willing”. The UK is likely to form part of the coalition according to The Times newspaper. Any maritime corridor out of Ukraine will also have to contend with the many mines that have been placed in the Black Sea since the war began. In related news, Russia said yesterday it had completed demining the waters off the port of Mariupol, a city the Russians have recently conquered after a bitter battle.
Last month NATO denied requests made by shipmanager V.Group for naval escorts for commercial vessels passing through the Black Sea. The area has become highly dangerous with at least 15 ships struck by military devices in the opening three months of the war.
Grain is one of Ukraine’s main industries, with exports totalling $12.2bn in 2021 and accounting for nearly a fifth of the country’s exports.
Prior to the war, Ukraine exported 98% of its cereals and oilseed via the Black Sea, at a rate of up to 6m tonnes per month. While efforts have been made to shift exports via the Romanian port of Constanta, grain stocks have been building up in Ukraine with the United Nations suggesting there were around 25m tonnes of grain waiting for export as of early May.
Russia has been repeatedly accused of stealing Ukrainian grain and loading it onto Russian ships to try and sell overseas.