ISW explained why Russia hits Ukrainian ports: it's not about revenge for the explosions in Crimea
The aggressor country Russian Federation has said it may consider civilian vessels in the Black Sea en route to Ukrainian ports to be legitimate military targets. But its escalating strikes on ports and grain infrastructure as well as threats of maritime escalation are not revenge for the latest bombings in Crimea.
It is more likely that the Kremlin is trying to capitalize on its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and extract significant concessions from the West. According to analysts of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), this is one of dictator Vladimir Putin's few remaining means of influencing Western leaders.
"The Kremlin now appears to be trying to create a sense of urgency for its return to the Black Sea grain initiative by launching intense strikes on Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure and threatening to target civilian vessels in the Black Sea," the experts said.
They noted that Ukraine harvests most of its grain between July and August, and Russia's strikes on its ports and agricultural infrastructure could further complicate the ability to make room for the new harvest.
The Kremlin is also deliberately destroying such facilities before renegotiating the Black Sea grain deal to set conditions for the export of stolen grain from the temporarily occupied territories. The Russians probably believe that this will "disproportionately benefit" the Russian economy.
Ukrainian Agrarian Policy Minister Mykola Solsky said that it would take the country at least a year to restore the Black Sea port in Odesa Region, which was used for grain exports. Analysts, however, point out that the destruction of the port infrastructure in Odesa and Mykolaiv regions could limit the ability to export grain by sea even if the deal is renegotiated, while at the same time it would allow Russia to offer grain from the occupied territories or its own grain to fulfill the deal.
"Prolonged grain logistics disruptions in Ukraine are likely to have increasingly cascading effects on supplies, reinforcing the sense of urgency the Kremlin hopes to create," ISW pointed to the occupiers' cunning plans.
It recalled that Moscow usually resorts to escalating rhetoric around Western support for Ukraine in an attempt to influence the behavior of Western leaders. While it is still unclear to what extent Russian forces intend to strike civilian vessels in the Black Sea, the Kremlin hopes their "warning" will have a deterrent effect on maritime activity and create conditions reminiscent of the full blockade of Ukrainian ports at the start of a full-scale invasion.
In addition, ISW speculates that Russia is also trying to increase friction between the Ukrainian and Central European governments as they seek a way to divert grain exports. Senior European officials said the EU is seeking to move more Ukrainian grain by road and rail to offset Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal.
"The Kremlin may be trying to undermine Ukraine's future prospects for maritime exports in order to spoil Ukraine's relations with its Western neighbors," the analysts stressed.
As OBOZREVATEL reported, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine responded to threats from the Russian Federation to safe navigation in the Black Sea. It noted that the AFU has the means to repel the aggressor. This is proved by the fate of the "Moscow" cruiser.