Russia pauses grain deal after Ukraine strikes warships in Sevastopol


Russia has reignited fears over global food security after it claimed that Kyiv used its participation in a UN-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export grain and other agricultural products from Black Sea ports to attack Kremlin ships.

The Russian military accused Ukrainian forces of using drones to attack “military and civilian” ships near Sevastopol in Crimea early on Saturday, claiming the strikes were carried out “with the involvement of British specialists”.

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that due to the attack, “it will no longer guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and will suspend its implementation for an indefinite period from today.”

Britain has hit back at allegations of drone strikes by saying Russia is making “false claims of an epic scale”. Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A video that appeared on Ukrainian Telegram channels on Saturday showed a naval drone targeting the Russian frigate Admiral Makarov. Makarov reportedly replaced Moscow, the flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet, which sank in April after being hit by Ukrainian forces with Nep anti-ship missiles. The Washington Post could not independently verify the authenticity of this video.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the drone attacks were largely repelled and that only one minesweeper suffered minor damage.

Moscow and Kyiv signed a grain deal in July that opened Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for exports, but was halted after Russia invaded the country on February 24.

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Turkey played a key role in brokering the deal because of its close ties to Russia and Ukraine, and as it sought to raise its diplomatic profile to broker talks between the warring parties.

As part of the deal, Ukrainian pilots guided ships through a mined port early in the war to prevent Russia from seizing key ports such as Odessa. The US and Ukraine have also accused the Russian navy of laying mines off the coast of Ukraine.

The ships were then given safe passage to sail to Turkey by the Russian military, who formed teams of experts from all relevant parties to inspect the ships before they left for their destinations. Weapons have also been checked on ships bound for Ukraine, with Moscow stipulating that Ukraine does not use the grain corridor to deliver Western weapons.

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

“It is imperative that all parties refrain from any actions that could jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative, a vital humanitarian effort that positively impacts access to food for millions of people around the world,” said Stéphane Dujarric. UN Secretary General António Guterres made a statement about this.

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Negotiations to extend the deal had been strained even before the attack on the ship, as Moscow signaled it might withdraw from the deal after repeated complaints about its implementation.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin floated the idea of ​​limiting the deal, saying goods were going to the European Union rather than to poor countries facing severe food shortages.

Erdogan repeated Putin’s protest and added that he would like to export Russian grain as well.

“This is the fact that they are transporting grain to the countries that implemented the sanctions [against Moscow] It worries Mr. Putin. We also want to start grain transportation from Russia,” Erdogan said at the press conference. “The grain that comes in as part of this grain deal unfortunately goes to rich countries, not poor countries.”

After the bombing of the strategic bridge linking Crimea with mainland Russia in early October, Putin suggested that the grain corridor may have been used by Ukrainian special services to launch an attack on the symbolic gateway. If proven, he suggested, it would jeopardize the deal.

Putin blamed Kiev for the attack on the strategic bridge in Crimea

At the end of October, the Russian ambassador in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said that due to sanctions, Russian-flagged ships are not being accepted in European ports, and he lamented the difficulties in financing insurance and transportation of Russian grain and fertilizers.

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Ukraine, in turn, accused Moscow of not fully implementing the agreement. In one of his late-night addresses last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said Russia was “deliberately delaying the passage of ships,” leaving more than 150 ships artificially behind.

Zelensky said that the situation with Ukraine’s food exports is “increasingly worsening” and that Moscow is “doing everything to slow down” this process.

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

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

“Russia is deliberately preventing the full implementation of the Dan initiative,” the country’s infrastructure ministry said.

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

“We warned that Russia intends to destroy the grain initiative in the Black Sea,” wrote Kuleba. He also called on the world community to “demand that Russia stop the hunger games and fulfill its obligations.”

The head of the Ukrainian president’s administration Andriy Yermak said that Moscow is engaged in “blackmail” using food, energy and nuclear materials, describing it as “primitive”.

David Stern contributed to this report.


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