The attack carried out by Kyiv on the morning of October 29 by naval drones against the Russian fleet in Sevastopol at first glance does not seem quite logical. Its only result is that Moscow received an excellent reason to freeze the grain deal concluded in July 2022, which turned out to be extremely unprofitable for the Kremlin. The agreement signed under the auspices of the UN in Istanbul provided for the organization of the unhindered export of Ukrainian grain from the ports of Ukraine in order to combat hunger. In exchange, Moscow got the opportunity to export its grain and fertilizers to the West. However, Russia faced the actual “sabotage” of the deal by Western insurance companies that refused to insure Russian freight. And Kyiv sold almost all the grain to the EU and Turkey, only a few ships reached the starving countries.

But questions of direct economic benefit were by no means the reasons for Moscow’s discontent. Judging by the pro-Kremlin telegram channels and media, Moscow has long suspected and had evidence that the “grain deal” allows Kyiv to freely import weapons and ammunition. The fact is that ships going to Ukrainian ports are inspected for prohibited goods by UN inspectors in the roadstead of Istanbul, after which they go along the Bulgarian and Romanian coasts to Odessa. Meanwhile, the Arsenal concern is located in Bulgaria, a group of factories producing Soviet-style weapons and ammunition, which since February 2024 have switched to the almost round-the-clock production of much-needed products for Ukrainian army.

Indeed, in the European Union, which has long passed to NATO standards, this is the only large-scale production of ammunition for the weapons which is in the armament of the Ukrainian army. In Romanian Constanta, there is a large logistics hub, where NATO assistance to Ukraine is concentrated. Small by modern standards, these ships with a deadweight of 20,000 tons can easily load 2-3 thousand tons of weapons, ammunition and shells directly into the sea and deliver them to Odessa in a day. To transport the same amount of cargo by land, 2-3 trains or dozens of road trains will be required.

At the same time, the draft of the vessel will not change much. However, you can additionally repaint the load marks on the sides of the ships. True, it is not very convenient to unload a large amount of ammunition in the port of Odessa. The city is still far from the front, there are too many supporters of unification with Russia, and there is a real danger that Russian missiles or drones will “point” the ship at the time of unloading ammunition. Of course, the Kremlin is unlikely to want a symbol of Russia’s imperial ambitions – Odessa repeated the fate of the Canadian Halifax, destroyed in 1917 by the explosion of the French steamship Mont Blanc carrying explosives but there is a war going on and anything is possible.

Therefore, on October 27, two days before the attack on Sevastopol, Ukraine proposed to unblock the port of Olivia, near Nikolaev. At the same time, this port has not only the infrastructure for transporting grain, but is the only one in Ukraine designed for transshipment of ammunition. It has special fortified storage facilities, facilities for quick sorting of cargo, and, no less important, it is closer to the “Nikolaev Front”, which is preparing an attack on Kherson.

Against this background, the attack on Sevastopol looks much more logical. Having severely battered the Russian fleet, Kyiv could deprive Moscow of the physical opportunity, in case of emergency, to inspect ships going to the ports of Ukraine. In addition, without a fleet, Russia simply will not have real opportunities to effectively block a grain deal, while not sinking ships of third countries in neutral waters.

However, despite the major role played by British instructors, the attack did little damage to Russian ships, but gave the Kremlin a perfect excuse to freeze the deal. What is important, at the same time, the Russian leadership declared its readiness to donate 300,000 tons of grain accumulated in elevators in its Black Sea ports to starving countries free of charge. So, the statements that Putin is starving the poorest states, which have already begun on the part of Ukraine’s partners, are hardly convincing. So far, one thing is clear – Kyiv unsuccessfully played a trump card with a sea attack and was left without income from grain imports and without a convenient channel for the supply of weapons.

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