Russia is stopping Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea, citing the attack on Crimea as the reason
- Russia suspends participation in UN grain deal
- The move comes after drone strikes in Crimea
- Russia says British personnel assisted in the drone attack
- Ukraine says Russia is inventing attacks
- Russia will tell the UN about the suspension of the grain contract
Oct 29 (Reuters) – Russia on Saturday suspended participation in a U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal after what it said was a major Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet in Crimea, dealing a blow to efforts to ease a global food crisis.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol on the annexed Crimean Peninsula with 16 drones early Saturday morning, and that British Navy “specialists” helped coordinate the “terrorist” attack.
Russia said it repelled the attack, with only minor damage to the minesweeper, but that the targeted ships were involved in securing grain corridors from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
“The Russian side suspends participation in the implementation of the agreement on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
Russia said the move, which will reduce Ukraine’s grain exports from its key Black Sea ports, was taken because of the drone attack and the involvement of British experts.
Britain announced the Russian claims on Saturdayincluding that British naval personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipeline last month, were false and aimed at distracting attention from Russian military failures in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, accused Russia of inventing “fictitious terrorist attacks on its own facilities”, while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow was using a “false pretext” to scuttle the deal.
“I call on all countries to demand that Russia stop its hunger games and rededicate itself to its obligations,” Kuleba said.
The UN-brokered grain deal is crucial for food markets: it allows grain exports from Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, which were halted by the Russian invasion.
Since Russia and Ukraine signed the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative in Turkey on July 22, more than 9 million tons of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, canola and soybeans have been exported from Ukraine.
But ahead of the Nov. 19 expiration of the grain deal, which allows Ukraine to export grain from the Black Sea, Russia has repeatedly said there are serious problems with it. Western officials say every Ukrainian export helps ease the food crisis.
Russia will soon officially inform UN Secretary General António Guterres about the suspension of Ukraine’s contract on Black Sea grain, said Deputy Russian Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky.
The United Nations is in contact with Russian authorities regarding the situation, a UN spokesman said.
United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths said as recently as Wednesday that he had “relatively optimistic” that the contract will be extended after mid-November.
“Although prices in Western markets have been reduced, Russia has not gained anything from this deal,” said Turan Oguz, a Turkish defense analyst. “I think the main reason for Russia’s withdrawal is the indifference of the West towards Russia.”
Just 24 hours before Russia suspended participation in the agreement, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to the parties to renew the pact.
“We emphasize the urgency of doing so in order to contribute to food security around the world and alleviate the suffering that this global cost-of-living crisis is causing to billions of people,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Dujarric said “governments, shipping companies, grain and fertilizer traders and farmers around the world” were seeking clarity on the future of the agreement.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that after the attack on the Russian fleet, “the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the “Black Sea Initiative” and suspends its implementation from today for an indefinite period.
Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said earlier on Saturday that Russia is ready to deliver up to 500,000 tons of grain to poor countries for free over the next four months, with the help of Turkey, and replace Ukraine’s grain stocks.
“Taking into account this year’s harvest, the Russian Federation is fully ready to replace Ukrainian grain and supply supplies at affordable prices to all interested countries,” he said.
Guy Faulconbridge writes, Reuters reporters report; Editing: Andrew Cawthorne, Frances Kerry and Christina Fincher
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