Ukraine announces new Black Sea “humanitarian corridor” 

August 10, 2023

Ukraine on Thursday announced a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to allow the release of cargo ships that have been trapped in its ports since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Humanitarian corridors, or “safe passages,” are essentially agreements between two parties in an armed conflict that can allow civilians to evacuate, aid workers to tend to the wounded, or humanitarian assistance such as food supplies.

Russia and Ukraine had a humanitarian corridor agreement up until July when the Kremlin withdrew from the the 2022 United Nations-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative. The deal had allowed Ukraine to export grain and other supplies to countries struggling with food insecurity in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Russia’s military has since been targeting of Ukrainian ports, resulting in Ukraine grain exports last month to fall 40% from the previous month, driving up prices around the world to the point where the United Nations’ World Food Program has had to cut back on aid to refugees in the Middle East.

Russian officials have said their actions are in “retribution” for a deadly explosion on the Kerch Bridge, the only direct access way from the annexed Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. Ukrainian forces have claimed responsibility for that attack.

Ukraine’s announcement Thursday of a new humanitarian corridor is a new challenge to Russia’s de facto blockade in the Black Sea. It would would apply to vessels such as container ships that have been stuck in Ukrainian ports since the war began but were not covered by the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

In a statement, Ukraine’s Navy said the humanitarian routes had been proposed directly to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the U.N. that sets safety standards for international shipping.

The routes would be primarily used for “civilian ships which have been in the Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Pivdenny since the beginning of the full-scale invasion by Russia,” according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Oleh Chalyk, a spokesperson for the navy, added, “The corridor will be very transparent, we will put cameras on the ships and there will be a broadcast to show that this is purely a humanitarian mission and has no military purpose.”

Roughly 60 commercial ships have been stuck in the Ukrainian ports since the war began.

PHOTO: Cargoes of grain from Ukraine in Black Sea humanitarian corridor, 2022

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