By Anna Hirtenstein and Yusuf Khan, Wall Street Journal

Russia’s withdrawal from a deal that had kept Ukrainian grain flowing to world markets has sent prices soaring in recent days. A main beneficiary of the surge: Russia itself.

Wheat futures in Chicago have climbed 12% this week so far, rising to the highest level since June 23. Futures tied to corn are up 9.3%.

The Kremlin said earlier this week that it would pull out of the international agreement that allowed Ukraine to resume its grain exports through the Black Sea.

Russia has since attacked key port cities in Ukraine, such as Odesa. And on Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that it would consider every ship that passes through the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports as a potential carrier of military cargo, further spooking traders. Kyiv responded Thursday with a similar threat to Russian ships.

The Kremlin wants and needs commodity prices such as grain and oil to go higher, said Valerio Antonini, chief executive of Quanton Commodities, an agricultural trading house. “It’s a message from Putin to the West, he is not playing now. We will see at least two to three weeks of very high tension.”

Russia’s latest intervention has triggered another period of volatility for grain markets, just as prices were beginning to settle. Grain prices had rocketed to record highs after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and had only returned to prewar levels in recent weeks.

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