Russia on Saturday suspended participation in a Black Sea grain deal brokered by the United Nations after what it called a major Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet in Crimea, dealing a blow to attempts to ease the global food crisis.
U.S. President Joe Biden said the Russian action was “purely outrageous” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponising food.
Biden said Russia’s action would increase starvation.
Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol on the annexed Crimean peninsular with 16 drones in the early hours of Saturday, and that British navy “specialists” had helped coordinate the “terrorist” attack.
Russia said it had repelled the attack, with just minor damage to a minesweeper, but that the ships targeted were involved in securing the grain corridor out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
“The Russian side suspends participation in the implementation of agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Russia said the step, which will cut Ukrainian grain exports from its crucial Black Sea ports, was taken due to the drone attack and the participation of British specialists.
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 in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, accused Russia of inventing “fictitious terrorist attacks on its own facilities” while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow was using a “false pretext” to sink the deal.
“I call on all states to demand Russia to stop its hunger games and recommit to its obligations,” Kuleba said.
The UN-brokered grain deal is crucial for food markets as it allows the export of grain from Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, that the Russian invasion had halted.
Since Russia and Ukraine signed the U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative in Turkey on July 22, more than 9 million tonnes of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soya have been exported from Ukraine. But ahead of the Nov. 19 expiry of the grain deal, which allows Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports, Russia has repeatedly said that there are serious problems with it.
Russia will officially notify U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of its suspension of the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal, Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said.
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