Russia pauses grain deal after Ukraine strikes warships in Sevastopol

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Russia suspended its participation in a UN-brokered deal that allowed Ukraine to sell grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports after claiming that Kyiv used the corridor to attack Kremlin ships, fueling concerns about food insecurity. of the world.

The Russian military has accused Ukrainian forces of using drones to attack “military and civilian” ships near Sevastopol in Crimea on Saturday morning, claiming the strike was carried out “with the participation of British experts.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said separately that because of the attack “it will no longer ensure the safety of dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and will suspend its implementation from today for an indefinite period.”

Britain responded to the alleged drone attack by saying that Russia was making “false claims on a massive scale.” Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack.

A video that appeared on Ukrainian Telegram channels on Saturday showed a naval drone targeting what appeared to be a Russian Admiral Makarov frigate. The Makarov is said to have replaced the flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, which sank in April after Ukrainian forces hit it with Neptune anti-ship missiles. The Washington Post could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the drone attack was largely repelled, and only one miner sustained minor damage.

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Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain deal in July, opening Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to exports, which were suspended after Russia invaded the country on February 24.

Turkey played an important role in negotiating the agreement, as it has close relations with Russia and Ukraine and wants to raise its diplomatic profile in order to mediate talks between the warring parties.

As part of the agreement, Ukrainian pilots guided the ships to the port, which Ukraine had mined earlier in the war to prevent Russia from capturing important ports such as Odessa. The United States and Ukraine also accused the Russian navy of laying mines near the Ukrainian coast.

The ships were then given safe passage by the Russian military to Turkey, which organized expert teams from all parties involved to inspect the ships before they left for their destinations. Ships to Ukraine were also inspected for weapons, the situation in Moscow put to ensure that the grain corridor is not used to supply Western weapons to Ukraine.

More than 8 million tons of food grains were exported from Ukraine as part of a deal that brought down global food prices, according to the United Nations.

“It is important that all parties stop doing anything that could jeopardize the Black Sea Grain Initiative which is an important humanitarian effort that has a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Stéphane Dujarric. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.

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Negotiations on the extension of the agreement have been difficult even before the attack on the ships, as Moscow has indicated that it may withdraw from the agreement after repeated complaints about its implementation.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin floated the idea of ​​reducing the deal, saying goods would go to the European Union rather than to poor countries suffering from food shortages.

Erdogan echoed Putin’s complaints, adding that he wanted to see Russian grain exports.

“The fact that grain shipments go to countries that implement these sanctions [against Moscow] interrupts Mr. Putin. We also want wheat exports to start from Russia,” Erdogan said at a press conference. “The food grain that comes as part of this wheat trade is unfortunately going to the rich countries, not the poor countries.”

After an explosion at a planned bridge linking Crimea with mainland Russia in early October, Putin speculated that the grain corridor might have been used by Ukrainian special services to attack the symbolic gateway. If proven, he suggested, that would jeopardize the deal.

Putin blames Kyiv for Crimea bridge attack

Later in October, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said that ships under the Russian flag were not allowed in European ports because of sanctions and lamented the difficulty of obtaining insurance and financing for Russian grain and fertilizers.

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Ukraine accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In one of his late-night speeches last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia “deliberately delayed the movement of ships,” causing the failure of more than 150 ships.

Zelensky said the situation with food exports to Ukraine is getting “worse” and that Moscow is “doing everything to slow down” the process.

“I believe that with these actions, Russia is deliberately reviving the food crisis so that it becomes as acute as it was in the first half of this year,” Zelensky said.

Last week, Ukraine again accused Russia of blocking the full implementation of the agreement, saying that Ukrainian ports were only 25 to 30 percent operational.

“Russia is deliberately blocking the full implementation of the Grain Initiative,” the country’s defense ministry said at the time.

In a tweet on Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow was using “false pretenses” to stop Ukraine from exporting grain and other agricultural products.

“We warned about Russian plans to destroy the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” wrote Kuleba. He also called on the international community to “require Russia to stop its hunger games and abide by its obligations.”

The head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said Moscow was engaging in “blackmail” using food products, energy, and nuclear weapons, which he described as “antiquated.”

David Stern contributed to this report.

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