James O'Brien, head of the US Department of State's Office of Sanctions Coordination, said that Russia's leverage over Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports is likely to diminish in the coming weeks as more ships will be able to leave Ukrainian ports and rising costs may force Moscow to reconsider its refusal to sign a grain deal, Reuters reports.
Leaders at the UN General Assembly this week discussed attempts to revive the deal, which Russia abandoned in July.
Western countries have accused Russia of using food as a weapon of war by withdrawing from the Black Sea deal, which helped drive down world food prices, and then launching repeated air strikes on Ukrainian ports and grain warehouses.
"Several factors... will affect their [Russian] calculations. One of them is that their leverage will decrease. Now several Ukrainian ships have already left [the ports] and remain in territorial waters," O'Brien said, commenting on the "logic" of Moscow's Black Sea Grain Initiative.
According to him, the second factor is that Russia's pricing will suffer from its attacks on Ukrainian ships, which leads to insurers raising rates and Moscow's costs going up.
"Over the next few weeks, I think the factors that made Russia believe that it would benefit from withdrawing [from the deal] will change."
Today the second ship with Ukrainian wheat left the port of Chornomorsk via the temporary corridor. The vessel is heading to Egypt via a temporary corridor established by the Ukrainian military.
Prior to that, the Resilient Africa vessel with 3,000 tons of wheat for Asia sailed through the corridor.
Last month, in accordance with an order of the Ukrainian Navy, Ukraine announced a "humanitarian corridor" in the Black Sea to free ships stuck in its ports after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and to circumvent the de facto blockade after Russia reneged on a deal to allow Kyiv to export grain.