Putin ‘Terminates’ Grain Deal. Ukraine Blows Up His Bridge Again

It’s not safe on the Kerch Strait Bridge.

For the second time in less than 10 months, Ukraine bombed the sole link between Russia and Crimea in what the Kremlin unironically called a “terrorist” attack. Russia blamed “two unmanned surface vehicles” for the blast, which left a crater and killed a couple of people.

Russia uses the bridge, which in many respects is an illegal structure, to supply its military. It was temporarily closed on Monday. Ukraine had no official comment, but Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Volodymyr Zelensky, dryly noted that “illegal structures used to deliver Russian instruments of mass murder are necessarily short-lived.”

In October, Ukraine carried out a brazen attack on the structure, which Vladimir Putin cherishes as a symbol of Russian power. During construction, he called the link “a historical mission” to unite a “sacred place” with the “holy land.” In May of 2018, during a cartoonish celebration marking the completion of the highway, Putin barreled down the bridge behind the wheel of an orange dump truck with Russian flags mounted to the side mirrors. “This is a truly historic day because in different historical eras, including during the tsars’ reign, people dreamed of building this bridge,” he told a smallish crowd gathered on the other side.

Road and rail traffic was suspended Monday, but Crimea’s puppet government said the bridge should be repaired quickly. Train service in support of Putin’s war machine was restored pretty much immediately. Russian vacationers on the peninsula were told to stay indoors out of an abundance of caution.

It’s very unlikely that Ukraine will ever manage to destroy or permanently disable the bridge, but if they did, Putin’s options for resupplying forces struggling to retain the Kremlin’s tenuous grip on occupied territory would be severely limited. At the least, Monday’s incident was another public relations problem for the military, which is still reeling from Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s “accidental coup.”

Meanwhile, Russia suspended its participation in the Turkey-brokered deal which had allowed trapped Ukrainian grain to escape the Kremlin’s maritime blockade. The agreement was set to expire on Monday. Russia was expected to quit.

Last week, the UN sent Putin a set of proposals aimed at addressing the Kremlin’s concerns. There was no response from Moscow, which wants restrictions on its own agricultural products and fertilizers eased. “We may suspend our participation in this agreement,” Putin said last week. “If everyone reiterates that all the promises made to us will be fulfilled — let them fulfill these promises.”

In the months following the invasion, Putin impeded the export of millions of tons of grain, including wheat and corn by blockading Ukraine’s ports. Russia also reportedly seized grain in territories it occupied.

Global food prices soared last year, but have come down sharply since. It’s unclear what impact the suspension of the deal will have, or whether Putin can be cajoled to return to the agreement. The UN’s food price gauge fell a 14th month in 15 in June.

Even after dropping almost uninterrupted from last year’s highs, the gauge still sits near pre-war records.

The UN has variously warned that impeding the flow of foodstuffs from Europe’s breadbasket could cause famine in some locales. Just about the last thing a burning world needs is another war-driven spike in food prices, particularly given proliferating droughts and floods.

The year-old accord facilitated the export of nearly 33 million tons of Ukrainian grain. The Kremlin was terse on Monday. “Unfortunately, the part concerning Russia in this Black Sea agreement has not been fulfilled so far,” Moscow said. “Therefore, it is terminated.”


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One thought on “Putin ‘Terminates’ Grain Deal. Ukraine Blows Up His Bridge Again

  1. OTOH, a fair few Ukrainians (my wife for example) complain that the West take it easy while they bleed. Maybe the fear of more inflation in the west and famines elsewhere will make the case Putin must be defeated?

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