Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has effectively halted all maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, according to newly declassified US intelligence, cutting off a critical export commodity for Ukraine and risking a global food crisis.
In the months since Russia moved to invade in February, it has established an “effective blockade” in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a declassified map of the region to CNN on the condition of anonymity.
The map analyzes the density of ships coming in and out of Ukrainian ports before and after the start of the conflict, showing an almost total drop-off of commercial traffic to ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov after the start of the invasion. A third map provides a current visualization of the density of Russian naval vessels clustered in the Black Sea off Ukraine’s coast, highlighting “hotbeds of activity,” according to the US official.
“The impact of Russia’s actions cannot be understated as Ukraine’s seaborne exports are vital to global food security,” the US official said, echoing the broad assessment of Western analysts and government officials.
Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the official noted, the vast majority of which exit the country from Black Sea ports.
Some context: Before the war, Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. Almost 30% of global trade in wheat came from Russia and Ukraine alone.
The United Nations World Food Program — which helps combat global food insecurity — buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not opened up.
Last week CNN reported that the US and allies are holding discussions on how to safely develop routes to transport grain from Ukraine amid concerns about global food supplies. New satellite images reported by CNN on Monday appear to substantiate Ukrainian claims that Russia is also stealing stores of grain that have been sitting idle at commercial ports.
Since the start of the conflict, Russia has intimidated commercial traffic, occasionally impeded safe passage to Ukraine through the Kerch Strait and, most visibly, stationed warships off Ukraine’s coast and pummeled Ukrainian ports, the US official said.
CNN’s Alex Marquardt contributed to this post