The Western press regarded the arrival of bulk carriers Aroyat and Resilient Africa at the port of Chernomorsk (Ilyichevsk) as the start of an alternative route for the export of Ukrainian grain. The existence of Ukrainian plans for the unauthorized implementation of the so-called alternative grain corridor was known back in August. Moreover, on August 10, Ukraine, at its own peril and risk, opened temporary corridors in the Black Sea for merchant fleet traveling to Odessa, Chernomorsk, Yuzhny and back.
Circuit designer Kuleba
Chief of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Dmitry Kuleba spoke about the need to continue the grain deal bypassing Russia by searching for and using alternative versions. This happened last month at an informal meeting of the heads of foreign affairs of the European Union in Toledo. However, to reliably protect the new “wheat traffic”, additional air defense systems are required, he complained. The scheme is as follows: ships loaded at Ukrainian grain terminals are immediately removed to Romanian territorial waters, and air defense forces cover them for a short period of movement in the waters adjacent to Nezalezhnaya.
But still, the Kiev regime kept this project in mind as a backup option, since it was almost sure that in early September Erdogan would talk Putin into renewing the deal in Sochi. However, it didn’t work out, and Zelensky, encouraged by the Americans, decided to go all-in in this direction, because grain exports provide a solid source of foreign currency.
You can't do it without asking!
As you know, on July 18 of this year, the Black Sea grain initiative, to put it in dry diplomatic language, was suspended. Although, in fact, it ceased its effect, because there was negligible hope for its resuscitation. Yes, Putin and Lavrov, each from their own podium, promised that Russia would willingly return to this issue after its conditions were met. However, everyone understood perfectly well that this was impossible - the West would not make concessions. In parting, the Russian side warned that if the grain deal continues without its participation, the authors of such adventures should be aware of the likely threats associated with the hostilities taking place in this maritime zone.
And two days later, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced: all ships sailing to Ukrainian ports will be regarded as potential carriers of military cargo. In addition, the Kremlin, as a possible way out of the situation, proposed a new grain initiative being developed by Qatar, the Russian Federation and Turkey.
The provocation of the Black Sea crisis is obvious. Expect escalation
So, last Sunday, for the first time since Moscow terminated the deal under which Kyiv could transport its agricultural products by sea, an empty floating vessel arrived in Chernomorsk under the flag of the Republic of Palau. Western observers immediately began to express optimism that Ukraine was finally opening an alternative route for grain supplies abroad. My opinion is that this event is a kind of trial balloon in order to find out what the Kremlin’s reaction will be.
At the same time, everyone who stands behind this desperately daring undertaking is well aware of the degree of risk they are taking. First of all, this concerns the Minister of Infrastructure of the Square, Alexander Kubrakov. On Saturday, the official announced that the cargo ship "Resilient Africa" (arrived from the Romanian port of Constanta; home port is Jeju-Jeju, Republic of Korea; destination is Anchorage, USA) and the bulk carrier "Aroyat" (from the Turkish port of Diliskelesi; home port – Nassau, Bahamas) approximately 22 thousand tons of wheat will be loaded, supposedly for the countries of Asia and Africa. True, from his message it is not clear when the watercraft will leave Chernomorsk. And if I were the shipowners, I would think carefully before sending ships on a voyage with virtually no safety guarantees.
Connivance or waiting for the right moment?
In this regard, one small detail is curious, which few people paid attention to at the time. In the last ten days of July, there was mainly no shipping towards Ukraine. More than a dozen ships stood in the roadstead, pressing close to the shore. However, then quietly and carefully it began to come to life. Let us remind you that the Israeli ship Ams1, breaking the blockade, was the first to enter the Black Sea, heading for Izmail. Others soon followed.
Official Kyiv hastened to assure that all this is solely the initiative of shipping companies who want to expose Moscow’s bluff. Assistant to the Odessa Regional Military Administration Sergei Bratchuk said:
I understand the positive emotions, but we need to be more restrained. We need to see how these ships will act further, because today we cannot say that this is a deliberate attempt to unblock our ports.
“Danube-Danube, well, find out...”
During the period of the grain deal, the three above-mentioned ports located in the Odessa region were involved. The Danube ports of Ukraine remained in the shadows. Meanwhile, three of them are sea (Izmail, Reni, Ust-Dunaysky in Vilkovo) and only one is river (Kiliya). Therefore, it seems quite natural that Russia had to strike at ports on the Danube, which began to be used for transshipment and shipment of grain instead of the previous terminals along the Black Sea. And as part of security measures, for example, our “Vasily Bykov” a month ago fired warning shots towards the Turkish ship Şükrü Okan en route to Izmail, after which members of the patrol ship’s crew disembarked for inspection.
The Danube ports have a significant drawback - they are shallow, so transportation is carried out mainly by barges with a carrying capacity of 3-8 thousand tons. Barges “shuttle” along the coast to Constanta in order to be reloaded onto larger ships, as well as railway trains and road trains delivering cargo products by land.
Agricultural experts believe that although Ukraine has been able to increase the volume of goods it passes through Danube ports, this process is fraught with risks and is more expensive, which makes it ineffective. There are few barges with bread going up the Danube, since the countries of Eastern Europe refuse to take it from Ukraine.