Moscow has suspended its participation in a UN-backed deal with Kyiv that has unblocked the movement of Ukrainian grain out of its southern ports, threatening to deepen the global food crisis.
Russia linked its decision to pull out of the deal to an attack Saturday on ships in the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
He blamed the attack on the Ukrainian armed forces, saying air defenses shot down Ukrainian drones, but self-contained explosive boats caused damage to navy ships and energy installations.
“In connection with the actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. . . the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo vessels participating in the Black Sea Initiative and suspends its implementation from today for an indefinite period,” the Foreign Ministry said.
He also claimed without evidence that British specialists were involved in the attack and said he ordered his representatives at the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which manages the deal, to suspend activities.
Russia has hinted for some time that it wants to withdraw from the deal. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly voiced his displeasure with the deal in recent weeks, saying he was not sending grain to “the poorest countries”.
UN data shows that wealthy countries received more than half of the shipping volumes led by Spain. Middle-income countries, including Turkey and China, accounted for around a quarter of the total, while lower and lower middle-income countries such as Egypt and Ethiopia received just over a fifth.
The UN did not present the deal as intended to send grain directly to poorer countries, saying instead that it was meant to make grain purchases more accessible to poor countries. The deal was supposed to drive down market prices that were sent skyrocketing by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine said Russia was using a false pretext to pull out of the deal.
“We warned against Russia’s plans to ruin the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.
“Now Moscow is using a false pretense to block the grain corridor that provides food security for millions. I call on all states to demand that Russia end its hunger games and s again undertakes to respect its obligations.
In a statement, the ministry said Russia’s actions call into question “the feasibility of [the corridor’s] subsequent operation. Saturday’s announcement was “the embodiment of Moscow’s desire to destabilize global food security under the guise of recent events in Sevastopol”, he said.
Kyiv called on the UN and Turkey as guarantors of the grain deal to “send a clear signal to Russia about the unacceptable blockade [on] hundreds of millions of people around the world, including in Africa, Asia and Latin America”.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tweeted that Russia was guilty of “nuclear blackmail, energy terror, grain blockade”.
“Putin has turned food, cold and prices into weapons against the world. Putin’s Russia is waging a Hybrid War against Europe, holding Africa and the Middle East hostage,” he said.
Earlier this month, the The Financial Times reported that the UN-backed deal, which had allowed Ukraine to export millions of tonnes of wheat, was under strain as a surge in cargo ships aiming to cross the Black Sea had caused a backlog.
The UN said it was in contact with the Russian authorities about this.
“It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative, which is a vital humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson. for the UN Secretary General.
“By entering into this agreement, Russia has acknowledged its responsibility to ensure that the ongoing conflict does not jeopardize global food security,” said John WH Denton, director of the International Chamber of Commerce, who participated in the drafting of the agreement.
“There will undoubtedly be claims and counterclaims regarding today’s incident in the Black Sea. But both governments must recognize that there is a larger – and global – humanitarian imperative to restore the agricultural shipping corridor without delay,” Denton said.
“Letting this deal fail is not an option for the millions of people who rely on it for their daily existence in the developing world,” he said.