Russia halts Ukraine grain exports
Russia has suspended participation in a U.N.-brokered deal that allowed grain exports from Ukraine after what it said was a major Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet in Crimea.
Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol on the annexed Crimean peninsula with 16 drones early on Saturday, and that British navy “specialists” had helped coordinate the “terrorist” attack.
Russia told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter that it was suspending the deal for an “indefinite term” because it could not “guarantee the safety of civilian ships” travelling under the pact.
Russia has also asked the U.N. Security Council to meet on Monday on the attack, Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
The U.N. coordinator for the Istanbul-based Black Sea grain deal coordination centre made up of U.N., Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials, said five outbound and four inbound vessels had safely passed through the humanitarian corridor.
“There are more than 10 vessels both outbound and inbound waiting to enter the corridor,” Amir Abdulla said in a statement, adding there was no agreement between the parties for the movement of vessels on Sunday.
U.S. President Joe Biden denounced the move as “purely outrageous” and said it would increase starvation.
“There’s no merit to what they’re doing. The U.N. negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it,” Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware.
The deal allows shipments of grain from Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters, that the Russian invasion had halted.
Britain on Saturday said Russia’s claims, including that British navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last month, were false and aimed at distracting attention from Russian military failures.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said what he called Russia’s nonsensical move required a strong international response from the U.N. and the Group of 20 major economies.
“This is a completely transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine for Africa, for Asia,” Zelenskiy said in a video address, adding that Russia should be kicked out of the G20.
“I call on all states to demand Russia to stop its hunger games and recommit to its obligations,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
The European Union said all parties must refrain from any unilateral action that would imperil a deal it described as a critical humanitarian effort.
Since Russia and Ukraine signed the U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative in Turkey on July 22, more than 9 million tonnes of grain have been exported.
Ahead of the November 19 expiry of the deal, Russia has repeatedly said there are serious problems with its implementation.