Ukraine 'Does Not Trust Russia' To Respect Black Sea Deal: Foreign Minister

Ukraine has stressed that Kyiv does not trust Russia to respect the nascent deal to unblock Black Sea ports and release tens of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told journalists at a press conference on Friday that Ukraine has put its faith in the United Nations—which will coordinate the safe passage of Ukrainian ships through the Black Sea—but not Moscow.

"Ukraine does not trust Russia," Kuleba said. "I don't think anyone has reasons to trust Russia."

"We invest our trust in the United Nations as the driving force of this agreement," Kuleba added, noting that Secretary-General António Guterres "also invests his reputation and his capacity, in making sure that this deal works and that Russia does not break it, as it has broken so many other deals and agreements."

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu both signed separate parallel deals with the UN and Turkey in Istanbul on Friday, following two months of talks.

The accords will allow the establishment of a coordination center in Istanbul staffed by UN, Turkish, Russian, and Ukrainian officials. The deals are valid for 120 days, after which the parties can agree to renew them.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Minister to request comment.

Dmytro Kuleba at WEF in Davos 2022
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on May 25, 2022. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine has been defending itself against the initial full-scale invasion for 149 days. The fighting is now focused on the eastern Donbas region and in the south, where Russian troops have occupied swathes of Ukrainian territory including key ports.

Even those still in Ukrainian hands, like Odessa, have been blockaded both by Russia's Black Sea naval presence and Ukrainian naval mines intended to protect from amphibious landings. Russian media has reported that the safe passage will be created from Odessa.

The BBC reported that under the terms of the agreements signed Friday, Moscow has said it will not target ports while shipments are in transit. Ukrainian vessels will guide cargo ships through mined waters, and these vessels will be inspected by Turkey—with UN support—to ensure there are no weapons abroad. Russian exports of grain and fertilizer through the Black Sea will also be facilitated.

World leaders are hopeful that the deals will ease soaring food prices, particularly in the Middle East and Africa where certain nations are especially reliant on exports from Ukraine and Russia.

"Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea," Guterres said Friday. "A beacon of hope... possibility... and relief in a world that needs it more than ever."

Guterres did, however, admit to the BBC there is no way for the UN to punish Russia if Moscow does not respect safe passage for Ukrainian shipping.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter that any Russian "provocations" violating the accords would be met with "an immediate military response."