The initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports was signed on 27 July 2022. This agreement is supposed to decrease the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on developing the world food crisis. “The Ukrainian Review” has checked three widespread Russian fakes about this deal.
Fake #1: Delivery delay is Ukrainian fault
“Ukrainian vessels involved in the grain deal often lead to traffic jams in the straits. In its turn, the Ukrainian Administration of Seaports accused Russia of creating a long queue of ships in the Ukrainian grain corridor,” – writes southfront.org.
“The Ukrainian Review” has asked about this claim Shota Khajishvili, co-founder and director of RISOIL S.A. Company, which provides services for logistics of vegetable oils, bulk, and general cargoes in the Black Sea ports.
“You can now count with one hand the number of the ships under the Ukrainian flag, – Shota Khajishvili says. – There are crashes, but it is only a statistical fallacy. That’s why it’s a lie. Although there is a traffic jam, it is organized by Russians.
The number of ships that pass the commission in the Sea of Marmara when they go to Ukrainian ports, and the number of ships that leave the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, are getting smaller and smaller. The Russians say that they don’t have enough people, or the weather is bad, or something else. Therefore, the queues for the passage on both sides are huge. More than a hundred ships are now waiting for passage.
When they withdrew from the grain agreement (more detailed about this you can readhere, — the author’s note), the Turkish authorities let through more than forty ships leaving the Black Sea in one day and the same number the next day. And everyone left, there was no more queue to get out. Now we have vessels that have been standing there since December. They wait for the passage for 30-40 days. The initial agreement was 15 vessels per day. We could produce a total of about 30 vessels per day. The problem is only in the commission, which is being conducted by the Russians.”
According to the analytical report of The Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies and BlackSeaNews, in December 2022 the average number of vessels arriving per day at the three ports of the Odesa region as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative was 3.2. In September 2022, it was, on average, 5.9 vessels per day, in October – 5.1, and in November – 3.3.
Fake #2: Ukrainian grain was transported to the rich countries
“Volodin said Moscow gave Kyiv “the opportunity to export grain … to the most needy countries in Africa and Asia.” However, these countries got no more than 4% of the total exported volume, and most of it went to wealthy countries in the EU, he added,” – writes Anadolu Agency.
Other information can be found in the Council of the European Union’s statistics from January 2023. According to this, 65% of wheat has been exported to developing countries and 35% to developed countries. For maize, the proportion is almost half-half: 48% has been exported to developing countries and 52% to developed countries.
“The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP – the largest humanitarian organization in the world) has restarted shipping wheat from Black Sea ports. Before the war, the WFP bought half of its grain stock from Ukraine. So far, 13 ships carrying a total of over 380 000 tonnes of wheat have left Ukrainian ports en route to Ethiopia, Yemen, Djibouti, Somalia, and Afghanistan,” – we can read in the Council of the European Union’s information.
It is also worth adding, the grain can be re-imported from one country to another.
“In the case of Turkey, for example, most of the grain Turkey buys in Ukraine, it is not for domestic consumption, it is for re-export to the Middle East and North Africa region,” – said Yevgeniya Gaber, a former Ukrainian adviser and a senior fellow at the Centre in Modern Turkish Studies at Carleton University.
Fake #3: Ukraine uses the grain deal for terrorist attacks
“The Russian side probably strengthened control measures after the Ukrainian special services used the grain deal to commit a terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge as well as to attack Russian ports in the Black Sea,” – claims southfront.org.
“The Ukrainian Review” has asked about such a possibility from military expert of Defense Express Media & Consulting Company Ivan Kyrychevsky.
“As I understand it, the point here is that the Russian official structures tried to justify either the explosions on the Crimean bridge or in Novorossiysk, – said Ivan Kyrychevsky. – They tried to think up that allegedly one of the grain agreement’s ships delivered explosives in the holds along this grain corridor. But then such a strange situation turns out that the ship should go to Odessa or Chornomorsk. And somehow this ship had to come to Odesa, go to Bulgaria, then, from Bulgaria, either through the territory of Turkey or warring Ukraine, get to the Kuban, through the Kuban, enter Russia, and blow up a bridge there.
Such nonsense works as an accumulation of arguments for Russia to withdraw from the grain agreement and bring the ships of the Black Sea Fleet to our ports to continue the physical blockade.
The story about the detonation of a kamikaze naval drone is about the same story. Moreover, even if this theory is confirmed, it still turns out that it did not pass through the grain corridor, but through the area of responsibility of the Black Sea Fleet and the Coast guard. The version about the use of the grain corridor here is more likely to justify law enforcement agencies at once, who missed the approach of one or more Ukrainian vessels.
The things we talk about do not correspond to objective reality. There is no rational basis for the Russians to claim that the functioning of the grain corridor can somehow be used for military purposes at the tactical level. Closing the grain corridor for them is a strategic task. Thus, they undermine our economic stability.”
How does this kind of propaganda work?
We have asked a disinformation expert at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Mary Blankenship about the features and effectiveness of the propaganda around the grain deal.
“In general, all over the world disinformation and propaganda that spread the most relates to whatever the particular region or country is more vulnerable to, – explains Mary Blankenship. – For example, Europe is most vulnerable to energy issues, perhaps also the nuclear attack. So, disinformation and propaganda spread around these topics the most. The terms of the export of grain and seed oil are topics that the Global South and Africa within it are typically the most vulnerable to because they depend a lot on Ukraine for wheat and seed oil.
But there is good news: this propaganda is not really effective. Most of the discussions surrounding the grain blockades and general export blockades from Ukraine are still blaming Russia. If we speak about Twitter, only 10% of the actual tweets (at least last year) are blaming the West for this.”
More about disinformation in Africa you can read in our article “Russian propaganda in Africa: how it works”.