Russia pauses grain deal after Ukraine strikes warships in Sevastopol

Opinion

Concerns about global food insecurity have resurfaced after Kyiv said it had used the corridor to attack Kremlin ships, as it quit participating in a UN-brokered deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports.

The Russian military has accused Ukrainian forces of using drones to attack “military and civilian” ships near Sevastopol in Crimea early on Saturday, saying the attack was carried out “with the participation of British experts”.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said separately that it “will not guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and will suspend its operations indefinitely from today” because of the attack.

Russia has responded to Britain’s claims of the drone strike, saying it was a “false claim of the highest order”. Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack.

A video posted on Ukrainian Telegram channels on Saturday shows naval drones targeting the Russian Admiral Makarov frigate. Makarov is said to have replaced the Russian Navy’s Black Sea frigate Moskva, which was sunk in April after the Ukrainian military hit it with Neptune anti-ship missiles. The Washington Post could not independently verify the authenticity of this video.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the drones largely repelled the attack, and only one explosive device caused minor damage.

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Moscow and Kyiv They signed a grain deal in July opening up Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to foreign markets, which was cut off after Russia invaded the country on February 24.

Turkey played a key role in negotiating the deal as it has close ties to Russia and Ukraine and has tried to raise its diplomatic profile to facilitate talks between the warring parties.

As part of the deal, Ukrainian pilots guided ships through the port, which Ukraine had mined earlier in the war to prevent Russia from capturing key ports such as Odessa. The United States and Ukraine have also accused the Russian Navy of placing mines off the coast of Ukraine.

The ships were then given safe passage to Turkey by organizing experts from all parties involved to inspect the ships before they left for their destination. Ships entering Ukraine were also inspected for weapons, a condition to ensure that Moscow could not use the grain corridor to supply Western weapons to Ukraine.

According to the United Nations, more than 8 million tons of grain have been exported from Ukraine as part of an agreement to lower global food prices.

“It is imperative that all parties refrain from any action that undermines the Black Sea Grains Initiative, which is positively impacting food access for millions of people around the world,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

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Negotiations to extend the deal have been strained even before the ship’s attack, with Moscow saying it could pull out of the deal after repeated complaints about its performance.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin floated the idea of ​​restricting the deal, saying the goods went to the EU from poor countries with severe food shortages.

Echoing Putin’s complaint, Erdogan added that he would like to see Russian grain exported.

“The grain shipments are going to countries that have these sanctions in place. [against Moscow] It bothers Mr. Putin. We also want grain shipments to start from Russia, Erdogan said at a news conference. “The grain that comes as part of this grain deal unfortunately goes to the rich countries and not to the poor countries.”

After an explosion at a strategic bridge linking Crimea with Russia in early October, Putin has speculated about using the grain corridor by Ukrainian special services to attack the highly symbolic gateway. If confirmed, it would put the deal at risk, he suggested.

Putin blamed Kiev for the attack on the strategic Crimean bridge

Later in October, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, lamented that Russian-flagged ships were not being accepted in European ports under sanctions and were struggling to obtain insurance and finance shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer.

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Ukraine has accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In one of his late-night speeches 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 that Ukraine’s food exports are on the rise and Moscow is doing everything to slow down the process.

“I believe that with these actions, Russia will deliberately provoke the food crisis, as it was in the first half of this year,” said Zelensky.

Last week, Ukraine also accused Russia of not fully implementing the agreement, saying that Ukrainian ports have recently been operating at 25-30 percent of their capacity.

“Russia is deliberately preventing the grain initiative from being fully realized,” the country’s infrastructure ministry said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Saturday that Moscow was using “false pretexts” to stop Ukraine from exporting grain and other agricultural products.

“We have been warned of Russia’s plan to sabotage the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Kuleba wrote. They also called on the international community to “demand that Russia stop its hunger games and fulfill its obligations.”

Andriy Yarmak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, described Moscow as “premature” in its use of food products, energy and nuclear materials.

David Stern contributed to this report.

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