TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It was a slap in the face to the international community's hopes for the resumption of grain exports and the avoidance of a food crisis.
Russia must realise the weight of the agreement that it signed, and must implement it in good faith. The day after Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey agreed on the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports, Russian forces attacked the port of Odessa in southern Ukraine with missiles. According to the Ukrainian side, two of the missiles struck facilities such as a pumping station.
The agreement stipulates that attacks must not be carried out on grain transport vessels and facilities at ports where grain is shipped out. The port of Odessa is among the three ports on the Black Sea coast covered by the agreement.
Russia acknowledged that the missile attack had been carried out, but claimed it targeted military facilities at the port and gave a far-fetched argument that the strike did not constitute a violation of the agreement. This would indicate that there has been no change in Russia's self-righteous stance that it will not relent in its offensives until Ukraine gives in.
Whatever the targets were, attacking a port that serves as a hub for grain shipments itself violates the spirit of the agreement. It is totally unacceptable. The latest agreement had just been reached after months of negotiations. It is significant for the safe transportation of Ukrainian wheat, corn and other commodities that are piling up in warehouses, and for their delivery to countries facing a food crisis.
The attack on the port of Odessa undermines mediation efforts by the United Nations and Turkey and raises grave questions about whether Russia is willing to seriously implement the agreement.
In its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly killed civilians indiscriminately, including children, and attacked hospitals in violation of international law. Even when condemned by the world, Moscow has attempted to justify its actions with false claims. The international community's trust in Russia has steadily crumbled.
If the agreement collapses and a food crisis deepens further, it is Russia that should be held responsible. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who were present at the agreement's signing ceremony, have lost face. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has condemned the missile attack as an instance of Russian President Vladimir Putin spitting on Guterres and Erdogan.
To prevent such a situation from occurring again, the United Nations and Turkey need to strongly protest to Putin and demand the implementation of remedial measures.
Ukraine said it will continue to organise fleets for grain shipments and to prepare for the loading of grain, among other processes. Ukraine is urged to steadily implement the agreement and to realise the resumption of exports, while focusing on defending against Russian missiles.
- The Japan News is a member of The Straits Times media partner, an alliance of 22 news media organisations.