Is it all change in Ukraine’s Black Sea port. A grain of truth, or a Russian charade?

29 July 2022 By Paul Martin
By Paul Martin, Chornomorsk Port.

Right opposite the port that could become the first gateway for wheat to leave Ukraine stands a grey lamp-post..  The area around it is now called Freedom Square, but until the Soviet Union ended it was known as Lenin Square.  

The name-change is part of a pattern across the Ukraine, of becoming more and more distant not just from Russia, but from its Communist past.

The Black Sea alongside is empty — banned for locals because of the landmines planted there by Ukrainian defenders to prevent a potential Russian land invasion.

Other than that, not much has changed here — except the large port buildings are almost all closed.  Ships lie idle.

The only sign of normality in the port is a large pizza parlour, serving surprisingly tasty fare.  At the Katana club the country’s top karate champion is practising her skills, trained by a local coach Aleksander Tonkoshkur, who helped her to two world titles. 

Anita Serogina, 32, tells us a story of innocence lost, and weaponry needed.  “I used to never think about politics, let alone war.  Now, though, I carry a gun and I know how to use it,” Anita says.  “We’re ready.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Chornomorsk, 25 miles away from Odessa, on Friday 29 July, as his country hopes to begin exporting grain. He said: “Our side is fully prepared. We sent all the signals to our partners – the UN and Turkey, and our military guarantees the security situation.

“The infrastructure minister is in direct contact with the Turkish side and the United Nations.

“We are waiting for a signal from them that we can start.”

Last week, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations came to an agreement to unblock exports of grain from southern ports in Ukraine.   However, a day later Odessa was bombarded by Russian missiles.

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