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 its grain and other agricultural products through Black Sea ports, after claiming that Kyiv had violated the Kremlin’s mandate. used the corridor to attack ships, reiterating concerns of global food insecurity.

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

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

Britain has hit back at the accusation of drone strikes, saying Russia is making “false claims of an epic scale”. Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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

The Russian Defense Ministry said the drone strikes were largely repelled, with only minor damage to one mine.

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Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain deal in July, opening Ukrainian Black Sea ports to exports, which had been halted since 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 negotiations between the warring parties.

As part of the agreement, Ukrainian pilots guided ships through the harbor, which Ukraine had mined earlier in 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 ships were then given safe passage to Turkey by the Russian military, 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 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 the deal, which led to a drop in global food prices.

“It is imperative that all parties avoid any action that would undermine the Black Sea Grains Initiative, a vital humanitarian effort that will clearly have a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world.” The impact is having an impact,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement.

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Negotiations over an extension of the deal had already been strained before the attack on the ship, as Moscow has signaled it may withdraw from the deal after repeated complaints about its enforcement.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin floated the idea of ​​limiting the deal, saying the goods went 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 exported.

“The reality is that grain shipments are going to countries that enforce these sanctions. [against Moscow] Worries Mr Putin. We also want grain shipments to start from Russia,” Erdogan told a news conference. “The grain that comes as part of this grain deal unfortunately goes to rich countries, not poor countries. “

After the bombing of the strategic bridge linking Crimea with 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. . If proven, he suggested, it would put the contract in jeopardy.

Putin blamed Kyiv for the attack on the strategic Crimea bridge

Later in October, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Gennady Getilov, said the sanctions prevented Russian-flagged ships from being accepted in European ports and insurance and financing for shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer. Expressed regret for the difficulties in acquisition.

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In turn, Ukraine accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In a late-night address last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was “deliberately delaying the passage of ships,” 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 with these actions Russia is deliberately provoking the food crisis so that it becomes as severe as it was in the first half of this year,” Zelensky said.

Last week, Ukraine also accused Russia of blocking the 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 blocking the full realization of the Green Initiative.”

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

“We have warned against Russia’s plans to sabotage the Black Sea Green Initiative,” Koliba wrote. He also called on the international community to “demand that Russia stop the hunger games and resume its responsibilities.”

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said Moscow was engaged in “black mail” using food products, energy and nuclear materials, which he described as “archaic”.

David Stern contributed to this report.

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