Black Sea grain deal collapses as Russia pulls from agreement

Russia announced on July 17 that it is pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, critical for ensuring global food security, effectively collapsing the deal.

The grain deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN in July 2022, has been essential in mitigating a global surge in food prices partially caused by Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine by allowing Ukraine to export its agricultural products via the Black Sea despite the ongoing invasion.

"Unfortunately, the part of the Black Sea agreements concerning Russia has not been implemented so far," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed. "Therefore, its deal has been terminated. As soon as the Russian part is completed, the Russian side will return to the implementation of this deal immediately."

According to Russian foreign affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova, the Kremlin has officially informed Ukraine, the UN, and Turkey of its decision.

The move came the same day as the Crimean Bridge, which connects the occupied Ukrainian peninsula to Russia's Krasnodar Oblast, sustained damage due to reported explosions. However, the Kremlin denied the decision was related to the incident in Crimea.

A UN official confirmed to CNN that the organization's office in Turkey has received official confirmation on Russia's decision not to renew the grain deal.

“The Secretary-General will not stop his efforts to facilitate the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to preserve global food security,” the UN official said, as quoted by CNN.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also condemned Russia's decision, saying the "EU is working to ensure food security for the world's vulnerable."

Bloomberg reported on July 17 that the price of wheat rose 3% to %6.80 per bushel after Moscow's announcement that it is terminating the grain deal with Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to continue the grain deal, despite having withdrawn. He said Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will discuss the agreement over the phone with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, saying he hopes the deal will resume "without interruption."

The agreement has been prolonged several times since its conception - the last time on May 17 for another 60 days. Russia has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal, which Kyiv denounced as attempts at "blackmail."

Days before the deal expires, on July 13, Putin claimed that Russia's requirements have not been met, thus jeopardizing the grain deal.

Putin said Moscow's demands focus on logistics, insurance, and money movement when paying for Russian products. In particular, the Kremlin wanted its Russian Agricultural Bank to be reconnected to the international SWIFT payment system.

The European Union cut the bank from the payment system on June 14 under its sanctions regime over the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

To meet Putin's request, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented a proposal to Moscow that a subsidiary of the sanctioned Russian Agricultural Bank will be reconnected to SWIFT. The UN has also offered to assist Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.

On July 14, Peskov said Russia did not agree to extend the grain initiative, despite Erdogan saying he had reached an agreement with Putin on the matter.

Russian forces in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast withhold medicine to residents who refuse Russian passports

Russian forces are denying Ukrainian residents under occupation in Zaporizhzhia Oblast access to discounted medications if they do not obtain Russian passports, the Ukrainian military's National Resistance Center reported on July 16.

Withholding medical services is being used as a coercion tactic to force residents in Russian-occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia Oblast to become Russian passport holders.

Residents are normally entitled to free and discounted medicine. Due to the new passport requirement, Zaporizhzhia residents cannot obtain needed insulin, thyroid hormone, and other medications.

Three months ago, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin signed an executive order that set a deadline for applying for Russian citizenship in the occupied areas of Ukraine. Those who refuse and elect to hold onto their Ukrainian passports face losing their property rights, prison sentences, and deportation from their homes.

Additionally, Ukrainians who refuse to obtain Russian passports are often threatened with being forcibly mobilized into the Russian military.

Earlier today, Russian forces shelled Zaporizhzhia, cutting off electricity in one part of the regional capital city and injuring one person.

Russia expects to allow two-way traffic on Kerch Bridge by end of autumn

The Russians are going to launch two-way traffic on one side of the Kerch bridge on 15 September, and on the other side in November, one span of the bridge cannot be restore

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti concerning the statement of Marat Khusnullin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister at a meeting with Vladimir Putin and during a conversation with journalists

Details: According to him, one part of the span towards Kerch on the bridge is destroyed, it cannot be restored and will be dismantled.

He said that the movement on the Kerch bridge is initially planned to be launched in reverse mode on one lane. At midnight on 17 July, the first truck test cars will be launched, and if everything goes well, from one in the morning, they will allow cars to pass.

At the same time, Khusnullin said that two-way traffic on one side of the bridge will be launched on 15 September, and the second in November.

Khusnullin said that approaching the damaged support structures by floating cranes is impossible, and a temporary bridge must be built for reconstruction.

Background :

At three o'clock in the morning on 16-17 July, an attack was made on the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russian-occupied Crimea to the territory of the Russian Federation.

  • Ukrainska Pravda sources reported that the night attack on the Crimean Bridge was a special operation by the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Navy.
  • Russian media wrote that there were two drones. As a result of their attack, one of the spans of the bridge tilted. Automobile traffic on the bridge is closed. It also stopped the functioning of the ferries between Kerch and Russia. The flow of cars was sent around the occupied mainland Ukraine.