KYIV (Reuters) – Russia’s naval exercises in the Black and Azov Seas and the closure of traditional shipping routes have so far not affected the Ukrainian grain export market, traders said on Friday.
Ukraine, one of the world’s leading exporters of steel, grain and sunflower oil, carries exports through ports on the Black and Azov Seas – Odessa, Pivdeny, Chornomorsk, Kherson, Mariupol and Berdyansk.
Ukrainian officials criticised Russian naval drills near Ukraine’s coast on Thursday, saying the presence of warships was part of a “hybrid war” that had made navigation in the Black Sea and Azov Sea virtually impossible.
Ukraine’s seaport authority said the restrictions would last from Feb. 13-19 and the “movement of vessels … to the seaports of Ukraine in the Sea of Azov will be blocked for the entire period of these activities”.
“The market is mostly calm. Everyone hopes that the Navy will let merchant ships through,” one grain trader based in Ukraine said.
“I see no serious reaction here,” said another.
Moscow is staging naval drills in the Black Sea this month at the same time as it holds land manoeuvres north of Ukraine in Belarus, part of a show of force that the West says could be a precursor to an invasion, which Moscow denies.
Ukraine has long accused Russia of trying to strangle trade from its southern ports by mounting what it calls de facto blockades.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Catherine Evans)