Ukraine and Croatia have struck a deal that would allow the export of Ukrainian grain from Croatia’s ports on the Danube and the Adriatic Sea.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted the news on Monday, July 31st after talks in Kyiv with his Croatian counterpart, Gordan Grlić-Radman.
While the supply of weapons was the main topic on the agenda, drawing a cryptic comment from Kuleba who would “only say that there are specific agreements that will be implemented soon,” the Ukrainian minister highlighted the grain transport deal, saying that Ukraine and Croatia would “work to lay the most efficient routes to these ports and make the most of this opportunity.”
The agreement comes two weeks after Russia suspended its participation in the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain export deal, which it would only return to if Moscow’s conditions are met. Russia has long demanded the lifting of sanctions on its logistical and financial sectors which, it argues, directly compromises its own grain and fertilizer exports.
Russia’s move deprived Ukraine, a top global producer, of critical sea lanes through which to export its foodstuffs during the ongoing war. “Every contribution to unlocking exports, every open door is a real, effective contribution to the food security of the world,” Kuleba said, as he expressed gratitude to Croatia for “its constructive assistance.”
After the Black Sea grain deal’s termination, Ukraine found itself almost wholly dependent upon land export routes to its West. It thereby added even more of a burden to the EU’s eastern member states that were already struggling with their domestic markets being flooded, and which caused great anger among their farmers, who saw their incomes threatened.
While there exists an alternative route via Ukraine’s ports on the Danube River, Russia considered the Ukrainian infrastructure there fair game after the grain deal’s collapse and began targeting it.
The subsequent rise in the global price of grain has leaders of countries greatly reliant on food imports, such as those on the African continent, concerned.
In his July 28th closing address to the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg, the chair of the African Union, Azali Assoumani, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “demonstrated that he is ready to help us in the field of grain supply,” and that this was “important, but it may not be quite enough. We need to achieve a ceasefire.”
“President Putin has shown us that he is ready to engage in dialogue and find a solution,” he added, as he continued to say that “now we need to convince the other side [Ukraine and its Western backers].”
Putin had told the African leaders present that it was Kyiv that was refusing to enter into negotiations, since it does not take into account “new realities” on the ground, these being Russia’s annexations of four Ukrainian regions (comprising significant ethnic Russian communities) following last September’s referendums.
On multiple occasions, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected the notion of a ceasefire on Russia’s terms, as he believes Kyiv should reclaim its lost territories first.