Canada shares its experience transporting grain from Ukraine, but faith in Russia is ‘nil’


Canada is working to help get much-needed grain from Ukraine to parts of the world threatened by famine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, now that the embattled country and Russia have signed agreements to allow that to happen.

Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements on Friday with Turkey and the United Nations, paving the way for the export of millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, as well as Russian grain and fertilizer.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Prince Edward Island, Trudeau warned that Russia has shown nothing but bad faith, adding that his faith in the country is “virtually nil.”

“They have precipitated a global energy crisis, a global food crisis with their illegal invasion of Ukraine and the rest of us have been working very, very hard to try to mitigate those problems around the world,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau added that Canada has been working with other countries and the UN to share its grain storage and shipping experience for several months and is optimistic about the effort.

The latest development ends a wartime standoff that had threatened food security around the world.

“Today, there is a lighthouse in the Black Sea,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after signing separate agreements with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.

“A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”

The UN World Food Program has warned that millions of people in the developing world and in conflict zones are in danger of starvation.

Russian and Ukrainian officials also signed agreements with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, and the ceremony was witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Before the war, Russia and the Ukraine produced about 30 percent of the world’s grain exports.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the Russian invasion of the country and a naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments. Some grain is transported across Europe by rail, road and river, but prices for vital commodities like wheat and barley have soared during the nearly five months of war.

The new arrangement allows the safe passage of ships. It envisions the establishment of a control center in Istanbul, staffed by Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian UN officials, to run and coordinate the process, Turkish officials said. The ships would undergo inspections to ensure they are not carrying weapons.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have blamed each other for the blocked grain shipments. Moscow accused Ukraine of failing to clear sea mines in ports to allow safe shipping and insisted on its right to check incoming ships for weapons. Ukraine has argued that Russia’s port blockade and missile launches from the Black Sea made the shipments unfeasible.

Ukrainian authorities have also accused Russia of stealing grain from eastern Ukraine and deliberately shelling Ukrainian fields to set them on fire.

Ukraine has sought international assurances that the Kremlin would not use safe corridors to attack the Black Sea port of Odessa.

Trudeau said Canada and its allies will be watching closely to make sure the deals don’t put Ukraine at risk of being invaded and attacked by Russia.

“The G7 is working closely with partners like Turkey and others to ensure that we can get that grain out of Ukraine to places in the world where it is needed without compromising the protection of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

The prime minister grasped the global repercussions of the war in Ukraine during his recent trip to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, last month, where he met with leaders whose nations were already feeling the effects of cereal shortage.

The Canadian government pledged $50 million a few days later during the G7 meeting in Germany to send grain storage equipment to Ukraine so farmers could store the year’s crop and hopefully get it to market if ports reopen.

At the time, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Canada was prepared to partner with the UN to send ships to Romania to get grain out of Ukraine.

“We need to release the wheat,” he said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2022.

— With archives from The Associated Press

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