When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Battle For The Danube? Putin Risks Pushing Ukraine War Into NATO Territory

In recent months, Moscow has intensified its attacks on Ukrainian grain export routes that are dangerously close to NATO member Romania. Is Putin playing with fire?

A vessel  sails within the ''grain corridor'', Odesa, southern Ukraine.

A vessel sails within the ''grain corridor'', Odessa, southern Ukraine.

Pierre Haski


One day, perhaps, there will be a movie about "The Battle of the Danube," much like René Clément directed The Battle of the Rails in 1946, about the French railway workers' resistance during World War II. But for now, it's a war, in its most brutal form: a war to prevent Ukraine from exporting its grains and cereals, which part of the world needs for sustenance.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, to convince him to reconsider the cereal agreement he had denounced in July. In vain. Even for Erdogan, Putin did not yield. He only offered to supply one million tons of Russian cereals, via Turkey, to six African countries allied with Moscow, such as Mali or Eritrea.

The Russian blockade thus keeps preventing Ukraine from exporting its cereals, its primary source of wealth, through the most natural route: from the port of Odessa via the Black Sea. Only four ships have managed to pass since July — a mere drop in the ocean.

Hence, the search for an alternative route remains, and this is where the war takes a worrying turn.

The territory at risk

Recently, Iranian-made drones and Russian missiles have been focused on another cereal route, which passes through the delta of the Danube River and Romania — NATO territory — from where it can be shipped to the rest of the world.

On Monday, there was a major scare as Ukraine announced that a missile had landed in Romanian territory, before Bucharest denied the news. It was still a close call as Ukraine and Romania lie only 200 meters apart, right where the Danube Delta opens into the Black Sea.

Since July, the Russians have been bombing the Ukrainian river ports of Reni and Izmail, southwest of Odessa, which are the closest to Romania. They have destroyed port facilities and stocks of cereals stored for export. It is in this region that the "Battle of the Danube" is being waged.

Border guard on the premises of the ferry crossing over the Danube river Orlivka-Isaccea at the international entry point between Ukraine and Romania, Odesa Region, southern Ukraine. \u200b

Border guard on the premises of the ferry crossing over the Danube river Orlivka-Isaccea at the international entry point between Ukraine and Romania, Odesa Region, southern Ukraine.

Yulii Zozulia/Ukrinform/ZUMA

Clause of solidarity

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukrainians and Romanians have been working to improve this corridor, which was previously neglected because it was less convenient than the Black Sea. In just a year and a half, logistics experts have achieved remarkable results.

Once a haven for flamingos, now the target of Iranian drones.

The port of Reni has gone from handling 1 million tons per year to over 1 million tons per month! Ukrainian river ports, as well as trucks and trains, already account for 25% of exports through the Romanian port of Constanța. These goods are loaded onto cargo ships that safely traverse the Bosphorus Strait. This percentage is expected to increase, providing Ukraine with some measure of relief.

This explains why Russia has intensified its attacks on this region, once a natural haven for flamingos before it became the target of Iranian drones.

The risk is that the war could come even closer to NATO territory, covered by the alliance's solidarity clause. NATO troops are stationed in Romania, ready to defend the territory. Putin is playing with fire by coming so close to this border.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


First It Was Poland's Farmers — Now Truckers Are Protesting Ukraine's Special Status

For the past month, Poland has been blocking off its border checkpoints to Ukrainian trucks, leaving many in days-long lines. It's a commercial and economic showdown, but it's about much more.

Photogrqph of a line of trucks queued in the  Korczowa - border crossing​

November 27, 2023, Medyka: Trucks stand in a queue to cross the border in Korczowa as Polish farmers strike and block truck transport in Korczowa - border crossing

Dominika Zarzycka/ZUMA
Katarzyna Skiba

Since November 6, Polish truckers have blocked border crossing points with Ukraine, citing unfair advantages given to the Ukrainian market, and demanding greater support from the European Union.

With lines that now stretch for up to 40 kilometers (25 miles), thousands of Ukrainian truckers must now wait an average of about four days in ever colder weather to cross the border, sometimes with the help of the Polish police. At least two Ukrainian truck drivers have died while waiting for passage into Poland.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

The round-the-clock blockade is being manned by Polish trucking unions who claim that Ukrainian trucking companies, which offer a cheaper rate, have been transporting goods across Europe, rather than between Poland and Ukraine. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian truckers have been exempt from the permits once required to cross the border.

Now, Polish truckers are demanding that their government reintroduce entry permits for Ukrainian lorries, with exceptions for military and humanitarian aid from Europe. For the moment, those trucks are being let through the blockade, which currently affects four out of Ukraine’s eight border crossings with Poland.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest