Russia suspends Ukraine grain deal over ship attack claim
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia announced Saturday that it will immediately suspend its implementation of a U.N.-brokered grain deal that has seen more than 9 million tons of grain exported from Ukraine during the war and has brought down soaring global food prices. Ukraine accused Russia of creating a world “hunger games.”
The Russian Defense Ministry cited an alleged Ukrainian drone attack Saturday against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet ships moored off the coast of occupied Crimea as the reason for the move. The attack was denied by Ukraine, who claimed that the Russians had mishandled their weapons.
The Russian declaration came one day after U.N. chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain export deal, which was scheduled to expire on Nov. 19. Guterres also called on other countries, mostly in the West to speed up the removal of barriers that prevent Russian fertilizer and grain exports.
The U.N. chief said the grain deal — brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July — helps “to cushion the suffering that this global cost-of-living crisis is inflicting on billions of people,” his spokesman said.
U.N. Officials in Russia were in touch with Russian authorities regarding the suspension.
” It is crucial that all parties refrain form any action that could imperil the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This is a crucial humanitarian effort that is clearly having an impact on access to food for many millions of people,” stated Stephane Dujarric, Guterres’ spokesperson.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the Russian move “predictable.” He accused Moscow of “blockading” ships carrying grain since September. He stated that 176 ships carrying more than 2,000,000 tons of food are currently backed up at sea.
“This was a transparent attempt of Russia to return to large-scale famine threats in Africa and Asia,” Zelenskyy stated Saturday night in his nightly video address. He called for a tough response against Russia from international bodies like the U.N. and the G-20.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, accused Russia of playing “hunger games” by imperiling global food shipments.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the suspension was regrettable and urged “all parties to keep this essential, life-saving Initiative functioning.”
“Any act by Russia to disrupt these critical grain exports is essentially a statement that people and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry,” Blinken said in a statement Saturday night. “In suspending this arrangement, Russia is again weaponizing food in the war it started, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused British specialists of being involved in the alleged attack by drones on Russian ships in Crimea. The claim was not immediately confirmed by the British Defense Ministry.
“In relation to the actions of Ukrainian military forces, led by British experts, directed against Russian ships that ensure the functioning the humanitarian corridor in question (which can’t be qualified other than as a terrorist attack), “The Russian side cannot guarantee safety of civilian dry cargo vessels participating in the Black Sea Initiative, and suspends its execution from today for an indefinite amount,” the Russian statement stated.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure said that Ukraine has never threatened the Black Sea grain corridor which “is exclusively humanitarian in nature,” and would continue to try to keep shipments going. According to the Ministry of Infrastructure, more than 9,000,000 tons of food were exported since the first ship left Odesa in August 1. It said that 190 thousands of tons of wheat were sent to countries in need as part of the U.N. World Food Program.
Russia also requested a meeting Monday of the U.N. Security Council because of the alleged attack on the Black Sea Fleet and the security of the grain corridor, said Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s first deputy representative to the U.N.
Russia’s agriculture minister said Moscow stands ready to “fully replace Ukrainian grain and deliver supplies at affordable prices to all interested countries.” In remarks carried by the state Rossiya 24 TV channel, Dmitry Patrushev said Moscow was prepared to “supply up to 500,000 tons of grain to the poorest countries free of charge in the next four months,” with the help of Turkey.
Earlier Saturday, Ukraine and Russia offered differing versions on the Crimea drone attack in which at least one Russian ship suffered damage in Sevastopol, a key port on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that a minesweeper sustained “minor damage” in an alleged attack by Ukrainian navy and civilian vessels docked at Sevastopol, the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. The ministry claimed Russian forces had “repelled” 16 attacking drones. The governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev claimed that the port was under attack by both air and sea drones. He did not provide any evidence and said that all video would be taken for security reasons.
But an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry claimed “careless handling explosives” had resulted in blasts on four warships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Telegram user Anton Gerashchenko stated that the vessels comprised a frigate and landing ship, as well as a ship that was carrying cruise missiles that were used in a July attack on a Western Ukrainian city.
As their forces fought for retaking the province, Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian troops removed medical equipment from the facilities and moved large numbers of wounded and sick comrades from the hospitals in Ukraine’s south Kherson region.
Kremlin-installed authorities in the mostly Russian-occupied region have urged civilians to leave the city of Kherson, the region’s capital — and reportedly joined the tens of thousands who have fled to other Russia-held areas.
Zelenskyy said the Russians were “dismantling the entire health care system” in Kherson and other occupied areas.
” The occupiers have taken away equipment and ambulances, closed medical facilities in the cities. “Just everything,” Zelenskyy stated.
Kherson is one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and where he subsequently declared martial law. Donetsk is Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Zaporizhzhia are the others.
As Kyiv’s forces sought to gain gains in the south of the country, Russia continued its missile and shelling attacks in the country’s east. As Russian soldiers attempt to capture Bakhmut, a key target in Russia’s stalled east offensive, three more civilians were killed and eight more were injured in the Donetsk area.
Russian shelling also hit an industrial building in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region.
In the most recent prisoner exchange, 50 Ukrainian troops, including two former defenders at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, as well as two civilians, were released Saturday in a swap with Russia. Both sides reported that they received 50 Russian soldier.
This version has been corrected to show the Russian Defense Ministry said one ship, not two, was slightly damaged in Crimea port.
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