Russia is committing a war crime with its grain blockades. Odesa must open, if necessary with the help of Turkey.

    Michael PerssonJune 23, 202220:55

    This week it was unequivocally established that Russia is exporting Ukrainian grain via ports in the occupied territories (Sevastopol in Crimea, the destroyed Mariupol in the Donbas) to ally Syria, the only country so far to accept the stolen goods. It is one of the many immoral side activities of the Russian invaders, long past shame with their leader Putin.

    Cynical real politicians could of course say: good that at least some of the Ukrainian grain is being shipped. There are also really hungry children in Syria.

    But above all, it shows how urgently it is that the 20 million tons of grain that are waiting in Ukrainian silos out of reach of the Russians are also offered a way out. Due to a blockade of Ukrainian ports (especially Odesa) by the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and because of the mines that the Ukrainians themselves have laid in defense of those ports, no ships can enter or leave. Grain prices have risen by 50 percent, and Africa is facing famine.

    A veritable war crime, EU Foreign Commissioner Josep Borrell called the blockade this week. Within the European Union, Germany has now taken the lead in getting as much grain out of the country as possible via alternative routes, including by improving the transition from one train track to another. On Friday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is organizing a conference on the issue.

    But Borrell also acknowledges that these are at most palliatives. Real volumes can only be exported by sea. Odessa must open.

    The only large-scale hope lies in the mediation effort by Turkey, which is trying to relent with the United Nations to give up the blockade in the Black Sea. New talks about this will be held in Istanbul in the coming weeks.

    The aim is to arrive at three safe corridors along which ships can transport the grain. That would mean that Ukraine also has to clear some of the mines. So far it has rightly been hesitant about it.

    Should there be a need for naval vessels to guard the corridor for a credible security guarantee, Turkey must be supported by its NATO allies. The risk of a confrontation is smaller than the risk of a massive famine in Africa.

    The position of the newspaper is expressed in the Volkskrant Commentaar. It is created after a discussion between the commentators and the editor-in-chief.