It is time for maritime nations to take decisive action to stop Russia causing further damage to Ukraine, the global economy and everyone on this planet.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov — President Vladimir Putin’s chief propagandist, who can’t decide whether the invasion was a peacekeeping mission to free Ukrainians from Nazi oppression, to secure independence for the Donbas and Luhansk regions, or to enact full regime change — recently reached an agreement to allow Ukraine to resume its important role of helping to feed the world.
The deal brought a global sigh of relief, especially from poorer nations that are facing food shortages as the price and supply of grain has become beyond their reach because Russia is blockading Ukraine’s ports.
That jubilation proved short-lived. Russia, with the ink on the agreement barely dry, resumed its bombing campaign on Odesa’s port.
The strike, using high-precision Kalibr missiles, destroyed Ukrainian “military infrastructure”, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed.
As we have come to learn over the past few months, there is one simple way to know when senior Russian officials are lying — it’s whenever their mouth moves.
Newsflash, Mr Lavrov and Ms Zakharova. Nobody is buying your schtick any more.
Those missiles also destroyed a pumping station, grain loading infrastructure, private homes, commercial buildings and a car market. Explain that!
Your military is clearly attacking Odesa to scare away shipowners and their insurers from Ukrainian ports. You know that no company is going to send in a ship that could very likely be hit by a big explosive device.
And with the threat that missiles will continue to rain down on Odesa, I pity the crews on board vessels trapped in Ukrainian ports since the invasion on 24 February.
To the flag states of these vessels, I ask: What are you doing to get these ships freed, beyond “monitoring the situation”, as some of you claim?
You owe a duty of care to the ships that fly your flag and to the crews on board them. You earn a good income from the registration fees their owners pay you, and you should treat them as you would treat any of your citizens who have unlawfully been held hostage or captured.
Perhaps I can offer some suggestions.
Scour your registers and throw out any Russian-controlled ships. Liberia, Cyprus, are you listening?
Ban those vessels from calling at your ports, waterways and canals, as many nations have already done.
Finally, prohibit ships that fly your flag or that are operated by companies based within your borders from calling at Russian ports and/or carrying Russian cargoes. Greece, you may want to pay attention to this one!
Send word to Moscow that until the ships that fly your flag are allowed to safely depart Ukrainian ports, and others are allowed to carry Ukrainian grain without the threat of being blown up, this is how it is going to be.
Better yet, tell Russia that the restrictions will remain until it withdraws from Ukraine and learns to act in a civilised manner towards its neighbours. That includes not threatening everyone with its nuclear bombs.
And I extend the above suggestions to the governments of all maritime nations. Putin’s war against Ukraine is costing you dearly.
Your citizens are taking a big financial hit from high energy and food prices. The rampant inflation they are experiencing has, to a large degree, been caused by Russia, but it’s taking place on your watch.
That is going to hurt you politically.
If you don’t believe me, ask Sri Lanka’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if you can track him down.