Russia pauses grain deal after Ukraine strikes warships in Sevastopol

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Russia has suspended its participation in a UN-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports after it alleged that Kiev was using the corridor to attack Kremlin ships, reigniting concerns about global food security.

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

The Russian Foreign Ministry said separately that due to 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 has responded to accusations of drone strikes by saying Russia is “making false claims on an epic scale”. Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A video posted on Ukrainian Telegram channels on Saturday shows a naval drone targeting the Russian frigate Admiral Makarov. The Makarov reportedly replaced the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship 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 this video.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the drone attacks were largely repelled and only one minesweeper suffered minor damage.

Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain agreement in July, which opened Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for export, which was suspended after Russia’s intervention in the country on February 24.

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Turkey played a key role in signing the deal as it has close ties with Russia and Ukraine and has sought to boost its diplomatic image to mediate talks between the warring parties.

As part of the deal, Ukrainian pilots piloted ships from a port Ukraine had mined earlier in the war to prevent Russia from seizing key ports such as Odessa. The United States and Ukraine have also accused the Russian navy of placing mines near the coast of Ukraine.

The ships were then given safe passage to sail to Turkey by the Russian military, who organized teams of experts from all relevant parties to inspect the ships before they left for their destinations. Weapons and ammunition were checked on the ships going to Ukraine, and Moscow stipulated that the grain corridor should not be used for the supply of Western weapons 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 lowered global food prices.

“It is imperative that all parties refrain from any action that would jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative, an important humanitarian effort that has positively impacted access to food for millions of people around the world,” said Stephane Dujarric. Axar.az reports that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said this in his statement.

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Negotiations to extend the agreement had been strained even before the ship attacks, as Moscow signaled it might withdraw from the deal after repeated complaints about its implementation.

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

Erdogan echoed Putin’s complaints and added that he would like to see the export of Russian grain as well.

“The fact is that grain shipments go to countries that apply these sanctions [against Moscow] worries Mr. Putin. We also want grain shipments to start from Russia,” Erdogan said at the press conference. “The grain that comes in as part of this grain deal unfortunately goes to the rich countries, not the poor countries.”

After the bombing of the strategic bridge connecting Crimea with mainland Russia in early October, Putin assumed that the grain corridor was used by Ukrainian special services to attack the highly symbolic crossing. If proven, he suggested, it would jeopardize the deal.

Putin accuses Kiev of attacking the strategic Crimean bridge

In October, Russia’s ambassador to Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said Russian-flagged ships were not being admitted to European ports due to sanctions and expressed regret over difficulties in obtaining insurance and financing for grain and fertilizer shipments from Russia.

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Ukraine, in turn, accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in one of his late-night speeches last week that Russia “deliberately delayed the passage of ships” and that more than 150 ships were artificially delayed.

Zelensky said that the situation with Ukraine’s food exports is getting more and more tense and that Moscow is doing everything to slow down the process.

“I believe that with these actions, Russia is deliberately inciting the food crisis so that it worsens as it did in the first half of this year,” Zelensky said.

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

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

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba tweeted on Saturday that Moscow was using a “false pretext” to stop Ukrainian exports of grain and other agricultural products.

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

Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andriy Yermak said that Moscow is engaged in “blackmail” using food products, energy and nuclear materials, calling it “primitive”.

David Stern contributed to this report.

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