The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused Ukraine of sabotaging the Black Sea Corridor grain deal by demanding bribes from shipowners to register new vessels and carry out inspections.
It was one of the more bizarre developments in the negotiations over the continuation of the agreement, which has come to look increasingly under threat. Russia has not thus far provided any documentary evidence to back the claim.
Both Russia and Ukraine are now warning that the UN/Turkiye-brokered deal, could collapse on May 18th, 60 days after the latest renewal. Russia seems determined not to continue with the agreement unless means are found to enable Russian exports of agricultural goods and fertilizers on Western ships with Western insurance.
To support its bribery allegation, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul had been experiencing difficulties with the registration of new vessels and inspections. She said that the registration difficulties were caused “solely as a result of the actions of Ukrainian representatives, as well as UN representatives, who, apparently, do not want or cannot resist them.” Zakharova then accused Ukraine of “trying to exploit the Black Sea initiative as much as possible, not refraining from abuses of the rules of procedure or demands for bribes from ship owners. All for the sake of maximizing commercial profits.”
Zakharova claimed that shipowners who refused to pay a bribe to Ukrainians were forced to wait for more than a month while they waited for registration, adding that Russian proposals to add vessels carrying grain to African countries in need had been “met with hostility” by Ukrainian representatives.
“The calculation is simple – to launch a propaganda machine with the help of Westerners and the United Nations and again ‘play the food card’,” Zakharova said.
Inspections of ships carrying Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea had resumed on Wednesday. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Facebook that “ship inspections are being resumed, despite the RF’s (Russian Federation’s) attempts to disrupt the agreement.”
The Istanbul-based JCC said that “inspections are already at work.”
Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said on Wednesday that talks were taking place to get the deal extended next month, but said that no immediate breakthrough was expected.