Russia pauses grain deal after Ukraine strikes warships in Crimea

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Russia suspended its participation in a UN-brokered deal allowing Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports after Kiev claimed it used the corridor to attack Kremlin ships, raising concerns about global food insecurity.

The Russian military accused the Ukrainian military of using drones to attack “military and civilian” ships near Sevastopol in Crimea early on Saturday, claiming the attacks were carried out with the “participation of British experts”.

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

Britain responds to drone strike accusations that Russia is making “false claims of an epic scale”. Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack.

A video emerged on a Ukrainian Telegram channel on Saturday of what appears to be a Russian Admiral Makarov frigate being targeted by a naval drone. Makarov replaced the flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva. which sank in April After Ukrainian forces shot down Neptune anti-ship missiles. The Washington Post could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the drone attacks were largely repelled and only one minesweeper was lightly damaged.

Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain deal in July, opening Ukrainian Black Sea ports to exports, which had been halted after Russia invaded the country on February 24.

Turkey played a key role in brokering the deal as it has close ties to Russia and Ukraine and has sought to raise its diplomatic profile to mediate talks between the warring sides.

As part of the agreement, Ukrainian pilots guided ships through the port, which Ukraine had mined before the war to prevent Russia from seizing key ports such as Odessa. The US and Ukraine have also accused the Russian Navy of laying mines off the coast of Ukraine.

The Russian military then gave the ships safe passage to Turkey, which organized teams with experts from all relevant parties to inspect the ships before they left for their destination. Ships bound for Ukraine were also inspected for weapons, a condition Moscow has set to ensure that the grain corridor is not used to supply Western arms to Ukraine.

According to the United Nations, more than 8 million tons of grain were exported from Ukraine as part of the agreement, which has helped reduce global food prices.

“It is imperative that all parties refrain from any action that threatens the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a critical humanitarian effort that is having a demonstrably positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Negotiations on an extension of the deal had been strained even before the attack on the ship, as Moscow has indicated it may withdraw from the deal after repeated complaints about its implementation.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin floated the idea of ​​limiting the deal, saying it would divert goods to the European Union rather than poor countries experiencing severe food shortages.

Erdogan echoed Putin’s complaints, adding that he would also like to see Russian grain exported.

“The grain shipments are going to countries that are enforcing these sanctions [against Moscow] annoys Mr. Putin. We want to start grain transportation from Russia, Erdogan said in a press conference. “The grain that comes in as part of this grain trade unfortunately goes to rich countries, not poor countries.”

After an explosion at a strategic bridge linking Crimea to mainland Russia in early October, Putin speculated that Ukrainian special services may have used the grain corridor to attack the highly symbolic gateway. He suggested that the agreement would be in jeopardy if it was proven.

Putin blamed Kiev for the attack on the strategic Crimea bridge

Later in October, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said that Russian-flagged ships were not accepted in European ports due to sanctions and difficulties in securing insurance and financing for Russian grain and fertilizer shipments.

Ukraine accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In his late-night address last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was “deliberately delaying the passage of ships” and creating an artificial backlog of more than 150 ships.

Zelensky said the situation with Ukraine’s food exports was becoming “more and more tense” and that Moscow was “doing everything to slow down” the process.

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

Last week, Ukraine also accused Russia of blocking full implementation of the agreement, saying that Ukrainian ports have recently been operating at 25-30 percent of their capacity.

The country’s infrastructure ministry said at the time that “Russia is deliberately preventing the full realization of the grain initiative.”

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

“We have warned about Russia’s plans to destroy the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Kuleba wrote. He called on the world community to “demand that Russia stop the hunger games and recommit to its obligations”.

The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said Moscow was engaged in “blackmail” using food products, energy and nuclear material, which he described as “primitive”.

David Stern contributed to this report.

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