Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted all sea trade in Ukrainian ports, according to recently declassified US intelligence, cutting off an important export commodity for Ukraine and risking a global food crisis.
In the months following Russia’s move to invade in February, it established a “virtual blockade” in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a classified map of the area to CNN on condition of anonymity.
The map analyzes the density of ships coming and leaving from Ukrainian ports before and after the start of the conflict, showing an almost total decrease in commercial traffic to the ports in the Black and Azov seas after the start of the invasion. . A third map provides a current visualization of the density of Russian naval vessels congregated in the Black Sea off the Ukrainian coast, and highlights “hots of activity,” according to the US official.
“The impact of Russia’s actions cannot be underestimated because Ukraine’s maritime exports are vital to global food security,” the US official said, echoing the broad assessment of Western analysts and government officials.
The official noted that Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the vast majority of which leave the country from the Black Sea ports.
Some context: prewar, Ukraine was the world’s fourth largest exporter of corn and the fifth largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. Almost 30% of world trade in wheat came from Russia and Ukraine alone.
The United Nations World Food Program – Which helps fight global food insecurity – It buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine every year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not opened.
CNN reported last week that the United States and its allies are in discussions about how to develop safe routes to transport grain from Ukraine amid concerns about the global food supply. New satellite images CNN reported on Monday that it appears to support Ukrainian allegations that Russia is also stealing non-functioning grain stores at commercial ports.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the US official said, Russia has intimidated commercial traffic, at times impeded safe passage to Ukraine through the Kerch Strait, visibly obstructed warships stationed off the Ukrainian coast, and hit Ukrainian ports.
CNN’s Alex Marquardt contributed to this post
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