Farmers harvest wheat in Ukraine’s Donbas during Russia’s attack on Ukraine 13 July 2022.
The US attempted to facilitate Russian food exports on Thursday (14 July) was helped by assurances to shipping companies and banks that the transactions would not violate Washington’s sanctions against Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.
Turkish officials and the United Nations tried to broker an agreement with Moscow to allow Russian exports. This would allow grain to be shipped from Odesa, Ukraine’s Black Sea port. These ports were blocked due to the war.
The US issued this written clarification just days after representatives from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine met in Istanbul to discuss the possibility of resuming Ukraine’s grain exports. Turkey stated that they would meet again next week in order to reach a settlement.
According to the factsheet, the US Treasury Department strongly supports efforts of the United Nations “to bring both Ukrainian and Russian grain onto the world markets and reduce Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on global food supply & prices.”
The conflict in Ukraine has led to a rise in prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel, fertilizer, and other commodities, resulting in a global food crisis.
Eduard Zernin, head of the Russian Union of Grain Exporters, described the U.S. actions as “an act of kindness” that “a real step towards the fight against hunger in the world”.
Reuters reported that he hoped other countries would follow his example and issue clarifications or licenses to lift any hidden sanctions that block the supply of grain to those who are in greatest need.
Exports have been stalled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February and its blockade at its ports. Many ships were left abandoned, while around 20 million tonnes of grain was still in Odesa silos.
Moscow denies any responsibility for the worsening food crisis. It blames Western sanctions, which it says have slowed down its food and fertilizer exports.
Russia and Ukraine are two of the largest global suppliers. Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizer. However, Ukraine is a major producer and processor for sunflower oil and corn.
The U.S. Treasury stated that the sale and transport of agricultural commodities, as well as medicine and medical devices, was allowed and did not violate any sanctions Washington placed against Russia.
Washington stated that Russia doesn’t have any sanctions on its production, manufacturing, sale, or transportation of agricultural commodities, including fertilizer. It was also stated that insurance and reinsurance are allowed to transport these products.
Washington has placed sanctions on Russia to prohibit the import of seafood and fish from Russia to the United States.
Officials from the United States were able to confirm that U.N.-led negotiations to revive Ukraine’s food exports started in May. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ambassador of the United Nations, stated that Washington was willing to give written assurances (known by “comfort mails”) regarding Russian exports to shipping companies and insurance firms.
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