The part of Putin’s depravity that is still difficult to grasp is the Russians’ deliberate assault on civilians. “I can’t understand the logic of targeting shopping centers,” said the mayor, referring to the latest missile attack on two large local supermarkets. (I have seen malls and markets demolished in every Ukrainian city I’ve visited.)
Yet Putin insists Russia doesn’t target civilians and uses only precision weapons, despite mountains of evidence before millions of eyes, including mine. Putin’s lies make Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels look like a piker.
So the Odesa mayor is indeed skeptical that the man he calls “this maniac Putin” will follow through on the grain deal. “The Russian occupiers haven’t kept their promises from the beginning,” Trukhanov said. “Putin used to say he had no plans to invade. Now they say they will secure the safety of ships?”
Like the mayor, the Odesa member of parliament Oleksii Goncharenko doubts Putin wants the grain deal to succeed. He told me, “Putin is doing everything to disrupt the deal.” And co-signatories, Turkey and the United Nations, seem unwilling or unable to control him.
In reality, Goncharenko said, “Putin wants millions of African refugees flooding Europe” due to hunger from the absence of grain. Putin’s maneuvers put the spotlight back on NATO members as to whether they truly want to avoid an African famine. That would require a decision to have NATO ships escort grain vessels in order to challenge Putin’s use of hunger as a weapon, and his illegal control of Black Sea waters.