Russia pauses grain deal after Ukraine strikes warships in Sevastopol

Explanation

Russia has suspended its participation in a UN-brokered deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports after allegations that Kyiv used the corridor to attack Kremlin ships and concerns on global food security.

The Russian military has accused Ukrainian forces of using drones to attack “military and civilian” ships near Sevastopol in Crimea, claiming the strikes were carried out “with the assistance 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 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 these attacks.

A video that appeared on the Ukrainian Telegram channel on Saturday showed a Russian naval drone targeting the Admiral Makarov frigate. According to reports, the Makarov replaced the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, which was sunk in April after being hit by a Neptune anti-ship missile by Ukrainian forces. The Washington Post could not independently verify the authenticity of the video.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the drone attacks were sufficiently repulsed and only one minesweeper was damaged.

Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain deal in July, reopening Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for exports that had been suspended 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 has sought to build its diplomatic reputation for mediating between the warring parties.

As part of the deal, Ukrainian pilots would guide ships to Russia through a port that Ukraine had mined earlier in the war to prevent the takeover of key ports such as Odessa. The United States and Ukraine have also accused the Russian navy of laying mines near Ukraine’s coast.

The ships were then given safe passage by the Russian military to sail to Turkey, where they formed teams with experts from all relevant parties to inspect the ships before they left for their destination. Ships entering Ukraine were also inspected for weapons, with Moscow stipulating that the grain corridor would not be used to supply Western arms to Ukraine.

According to the United Nations, more than 8 million tons of grain were exported from Ukraine within the framework of the agreement, which reduced the price of food in the world.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the organization, said: “It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would jeopardize the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a vital humanitarian effort that will clearly improve access to food for millions of people around the world. has a positive effect”. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

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Negotiations on an extension of the accord had been strained even before the ship attacks, as Moscow had indicated it could withdraw from the deal after repeated complaints about its implementation.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the idea of ​​limiting the agreement, saying that goods would go to the European Union rather than to poor countries that have severe food shortages.

Erdogan repeated Putin’s complaints and added that he wants to export Russian grain as well.

“The fact that grain shipments go to countries that implement these sanctions [against Moscow] worries Mr. Putin. We also want to start grain deliveries from Russia,” Erdogan said at a press conference. “The grain that comes under this grain deal unfortunately goes to rich countries, not poor countries.”

After an explosion at the strategic bridge linking Crimea with mainland Russia in early October, Putin speculated that the grain corridor had been used by Ukrainian special services to attack the highly symbolic gateway. If proven, he suggested, it would jeopardize the deal.

Putin accused Kiev of attacking the strategic bridge of Crimea

In October, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said that Russian-flagged ships would not be accepted in European ports due to sanctions, and lamented the difficulty of obtaining insurance and financing for shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer.

Ukraine, in turn, accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In one of his nightly messages, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that Russia “deliberately delays the passage of ships” and caused an artificial backlog of more than 150 ships.

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Zelensky said that the situation in Ukraine’s food exports is becoming “more tense” and that Moscow is doing everything “to slow down this process.”

“I believe that with these actions, Russia is deliberately provoking the food crisis so that it becomes more acute, as it was in the first half of this year,” Zelensky said.

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

At that time, the country’s Ministry of Infrastructure said that “Russia is deliberately preventing the full implementation of the Grain Initiative.”

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

“We warned of Russia’s plans to destroy the Black Sea grain initiative,” Kuleba wrote. He also called on the international community to “demand that Russia stop the hunger games and fulfill its obligations.”

The chief of staff of the President of Ukraine Andrey Yermak said that Moscow is engaged in “blackmail” using food products, energy and nuclear materials, which he considered “primitive”.

David Stern contributed to this report.

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