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 would have allowed Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports, after claims that Kyiv was using the corridor to attack Kremlin ships. suspended and heightened concerns about global food insecurity.

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

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said separately that because of the attack, it “no longer guarantees the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea Grain Project and suspends its implementation indefinitely as of 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 these 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 Navy’s flagship in the Black Sea, the Moskva, which was sunk in April after Ukrainian forces hit it with 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, with only one minesweeper slightly damaged.

Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain deal in July, opening Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to exports that had been halted since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

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Turkey played a key role in brokering the deal as it has close ties with Russia and Ukraine and is seeking to raise its diplomatic profile to mediate negotiations between the warring parties.

As part of the deal, Ukrainian pilots would guide ships through the port, which Ukraine had mined early in the war to prevent the capture of key Russian ports such as Odessa. The United States and Ukraine have also accused the Russian Navy of laying mines near the coast of Ukraine.

The ships were then granted safe passage to Turkey by the Russian military, which organized teams with experts from all sides to inspect the ships before they left for their destination. Ships bound for Ukraine were also inspected for weapons, a condition imposed by Moscow to ensure that the grain corridor was 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 a deal that brought down global food prices.

“It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative, a vital humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world,” said Stephen Dujarric, a spokesman for the organisation. , Refrain.” Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations announced in a statement.

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Negotiations over the renewal of the agreement were tense even before the ship attacks, as Moscow has indicated it may withdraw from the agreement after repeated complaints about its implementation.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin floated the idea of ​​limiting the deal, saying the goods would go to the European Union instead of poor countries facing severe food shortages.

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

The fact that grain shipments go to countries that implement these sanctions [against Moscow] It upsets Mr. Putin. Erdogan said in a press conference: “We also want grain shipments to start from Russia.” “The grain that is obtained as part of this grain deal unfortunately goes to rich countries, not poor countries.”

After the explosion at the strategic bridge connecting Crimea to mainland Russia in early October, Putin speculated that the grain corridor may have been used by Ukrainian special services to attack the highly symbolic gateway. According to him, if proven, it would jeopardize the agreement.

Putin blames Kyiv for the attack on the strategic bridge in Crimea

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

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Ukraine, in turn, accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In a nightly speech last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was “deliberately delaying the passage of ships” and creating an artificial cargo 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 Russia is deliberately fueling the food crisis with these actions so that the crisis becomes acute like in the first half of this year,” Zelensky said.

Last week, Ukraine also accused Russia of blocking the full implementation of the deal, saying Ukrainian ports were operating at 25-30 percent of capacity recently.

The country’s infrastructure ministry said at the time: “Russia is deliberately preventing the grain initiative from being fully realized.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kolhaba tweeted on Saturday that Moscow was using a “false pretext” to block Ukraine’s exports of grain and other agricultural products.

“We have warned about Russian plans to sabotage the Black Sea grain plan,” Kolba wrote. He also asked the international community to “ask Russia to stop its hunger games and recommit to its obligations.”

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said Moscow was engaging in “blackmail” using what he described as “primitive” food, energy and nuclear materials.

David Stern contributed to this report.

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