Romania to expand capacity for Ukrainian grain transit

As Russia's unilateral termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative blocked the sea corridor for Ukraine's exports, Bloomberg reported on July 28, Romania plans to expand its capacity for transiting Ukrainian grain.

The country plans to open new border crossings and increase staff working on the transit, Romania's Foreign Minister Luminita-Teodora Odobescu told Bloomberg in an interview on July 27.

"We are in close contact with Ukraine to identify the best options to increase and speed up this transit," the minister said.

"The security situation of course, is not easy, but we are very much committed to continue to help Ukraine."

According to Bloomberg, Romania has increased the capacity of the Constanta port for shipping out Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea. The newspaper added that the country has also re-opened a closed railway link with Ukraine and seeks to hire more ship pilots for transporting Ukrainian products via the Sulina branch of the Danube River.

As Bloomberg noted, the country has already facilitated the transport of 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain, which is almost half of the produce shipped via the EU's solidarity lanes.

According to von der Leyen, more than 45 million metric tons of grain, oilseed, and other products have been exported through the solidarity lanes since they were instituted in May 2022.

Facilitating the transit of Ukrainian grain may stretch Romania's transport capacities, as the country itself is also a major grain exporter, Bloomberg commented. Bucharest was among the five EU members who asked the EU to institute a ban on the domestic sale of Ukrainian grain products in those five countries.

While the measure is currently set to expire on Sep. 15, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Hungary said they will ask the European Commission to prolong the measure at least until the end of the year. According to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the countries are nevertheless open to transiting Ukrainian grain through their territories.

Another potential obstacle are Russian attacks against Ukrainian river ports, which, according to Bloomberg, deter some of the Romanian ship crews.

On the night of July 24, Russian forces launched Shahed-136 drones at the Danube River ports of Izmail and Reni, located in Ukraine's Odesa Oblast. The ports are only 200 meters from the Romanian border.

After Russia's one-sided termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, Ukraine has been seeking alternative ways of exporting its produce. Several EU countries, including Bulgaria and Croatia, suggested using their transport infrastructure to support Ukrainian exports.

Solutions need to be found for grain exports

On July 17, 2023, Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The initiative was originally brokered in August 2022 by Turkey between Russia and Ukraine. It had been successful in facilitating the export of 32.5 million tonnes of grain out of Ukrainian ports, leaving in over 1,000 ships.

These exports helped provide critical balance of payments support to Ukraine – well over $10 billion – and had helped to turn global grain prices lower from the peaks seen in the immediate aftermath of the all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine, thereby providing cheap food to the world’s poor.

Various explanations have been given as to the Russian decision to pull the plug on the deal, ranging from retaliation for recent claimed Ukrainian attacks on the Kerch Bridge, to Russian annoyance with Turkey’s decision to release key Azovstal commanders to Ukraine, Turkey’s supply of drones and armaments to Ukraine, and it’s decision at the Vilnius summit to green light Sweden’s NATO membership.

Russia itself has argued that the grain deal failed to deliver on its objectives of facilitating improved food and agricultural exports out of the region, and that Ukraine has been exploiting the agreement to facilitate military shipments into Ukraine.

Apartment building hit by Russian attack on Dnipro

An apartment building was hit by a Russian attack on the Ukrainian city of Dnipro on July 28, according to photos and videos shared by residents.

The photos and video footage show significant damage caused to the building.

Explosions were heard in the cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia.

Suspilne Dnipro television reported sounds of explosions at around 8:30 p.m. local time following an air raid siren.

Around the same time as the explosions were reported, the Air Force announced the threat of a ballistic missile attack in eastern and southern regions. Shortly before 9 p.m., the Air Force reported a take-off of a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet.

At least 3 injured in Russian attack on Dnipro.

At least three people were injured in the Russian strike that damaged a high-rise apartment building in Dnipro on July 28, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko reported.

"As of 9:30 p.m., three people sought medical help," Klymenko wrote on his Telegram channel.

"Rescue services and the police are working on the site. The apartments are being checked. People are receiving the necessary assistance."

The city was hit at around 8:30 p.m. local time following an air raid siren. According to the footage provided by witnesses to the Kyiv Independent, as well as footage shared on social media, an apartment building in the city sustained heavy damage in the attack.

Around the same time as the explosions were reported, the Air Force announced the threat of a ballistic missile attack in eastern and southern regions.