Russia said on Saturday it would suspend agricultural exports from participating Ukrainian ports in response to an attack on the occupied Black Sea port of Sevastopol, blaming the Ukrainian government.
Ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels involved in securing the so-called food corridor were attacked, the Defense Ministry said in a statement on Telegram. Therefore, “the Russian side suspends its participation in the implementation of the Ukrainian port agricultural export agreement,” the statement said.
The move threatens to undermine the UN-brokered deal that freed Ukraine of a vital food export through the Black Sea, which is crucial to tackling the global hunger crisis, a day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the deal The agreement, which is officially scheduled to expire on November 19.
Officials from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations signed the food deal in July, freeing millions of tons of food that had been bottled in the country since the Russian invasion began in February.
The agreement, one of the few diplomatic breakthroughs in the war, helped bring global wheat prices down to pre-war levels, helping to ease a global hunger crisis partly caused by the conflict. Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine supplied about 10% of the world’s wheat.
If shipments of Ukrainian grains are halted, the suspension could push up global prices for wheat, corn and other vital food items.
But Russia’s foreign ministry said Ukrainian armed forces used “the cover of humanitarian corridors” to launch large-scale air and sea strikes, so Moscow “could not guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea Initiative and suspended its implementation. Starting today, indefinitely.” ” It said that appropriate instructions had been given to the Russian representative of the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which controls the shipment of Ukrainian food.
A Turkish official said Turkey had not received formal notification of Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the deal. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan helped broker the deal.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that Ukraine will continue to supply food to the world. “The world should not be subject to Russian whims, hunger cannot be a weapon,” he tweeted.
Russia’s decision to suspend the agreement is also a major blow to Ukraine’s globally important agricultural industry, which earlier this month returned to near pre-war levels of grain exports, largely as a result of the agreement. Since the agreement was signed, Ukraine has exported 9.2 million tonnes of food through the Black Sea’s security corridor, according to the United Nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to abandon the deal in recent months, saying Ukraine doesn’t have enough wheat to go to poorer countries and not enough Russian food and fertilizer exports because of sanctions. About a quarter of the food shipped through the agreement goes to low-income countries, according to the United Nations, and under which Ukraine also ships wheat to crisis-affected countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen.
Stefan Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, said on Saturday: “We have seen reports of the Russian Federation suspending its participation in the Black Sea Grains Initiative following the attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet. We are in contact with the Russian authorities on the matter. “
“It is critical that all parties refrain from any action that could jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative, an important humanitarian effort that has clearly had a positive impact on food access for millions of people around the world,” Du said. Mr Garrick said.
When asked how Russia’s decision would affect the functioning of the food corridor, a spokesman for the Joint Coordination Centre referred to Mr Dujarric’s statement.
Ukraine’s foreign minister tweeted: “We have warned Russia of plans to undermine the Black Sea Grains Initiative. Now, under false pretenses, Moscow is blocking the food corridor that ensures food security for millions. I call on all countries to demand that Russia stop its Hunger Games and renew its obligations.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this month accused Russia of deliberately slowing the passage of ships through the corridor, creating a backlog of more than 170 ships waiting to cross the border. The corridor’s capacity is limited by the number of inspectors from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations who must inspect every ship as it enters and leaves the Black Sea.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday’s attack involved nine aerial drones and seven maritime drones. He said the air strikes were repelled but there was minor damage to a maritime minesweeper named Ivan Golubets and some defensive infrastructure in the South Asian Gulf, one of the ports of Sevastopol.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, Russia’s appointed governor of Sevastopol, wrote on his Telegram message channel that the attack caused little damage to civilian infrastructure, but city services The department has been put on alert. He called on the city’s residents not to release videos or information about the attack that could help Ukrainian troops “understand how the defenses of our city are built.”
Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for previous bombings in Crimea, including the August drone attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, but are happy and have vowed to reclaim the peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Crimea has been a rear base for Moscow’s military occupation of large swathes of southern Ukraine, and Kyiv forces are now trying to drive Russian troops away from parts of the Kherson region.
The recently appointed commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovykin, acknowledged that Kherson’s position was challenging and “difficult decisions” might be required, without elaborating.
Earlier this month, Russian officials in Kherson began telling residents to leave the city, which they said was in preparation for an attack in Ukraine. The evacuation of civilians has been completed, Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian government in the Kherson region, said on Friday.
Meanwhile, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman on Saturday accused the British navy of being responsible for sabotaging the Nord Stream pipeline in late September. Western governments found that the blast shook the Nord Stream and a pair of parallel pipes, Nord Stream 2. The investigation continues. Some German officials said their work assumed that Russia was behind the bombing.
British Ministry of Defence said in a tweet Saturday: “To mitigate their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry is resorting to peddling false claims on a grand scale. This fictional story tells more about the debate within the Russian government than the West.”
– Alistair MacDonald contributed to this article.
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