As Ukraine and the United States argue they are being held hostage, Russia on Saturday suspended a deal on grain exports from Ukrainian ports vital to the world’s food supply.
Moscow claims the decision was taken after drone attacks on ships.
Ukraine has denounced “a false pretext” and called on Russia to pressure it for “refusing to honor its obligations.” The deal, concluded in July under the auspices of the UN and Turkey, is the only one between Moscow and Kiev. of conflict.
In his daily video posted online, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “This decision is not really today.”
“World food shortages began to increase in September when Russia began blocking the movement of ships carrying our agricultural products,” he said.
“This is an obvious Russian intention to once again raise the threat of large-scale famine in Africa and Asia,” he added. According to him, at least 176 ships carrying more than two million tons of grain have already been blocked by Moscow.
“A serious international response is needed. Within the UN, and in particular, the G20”, he said, adding that Russia should no longer be allowed.
However, a Turkish defense source told AFP on Saturday evening that “Turkey has not been officially notified” by Moscow of withdrawing from the deal.
In Washington, a White House National Security Council spokesman accused Russia of using “food as a weapon.”
“Russia is once again trying to use the war it started as an excuse to weaponize food, directly harming countries in need and affecting food prices around the world,” said Adrian Watson.
The grain deal has allowed the export of millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukrainian ports since the conflict began in February. The ban raised food prices and raised fears of famine.
The UN, the treaty’s guarantor, called for it to be preserved, stressing its “positive impact” on access to food for millions of people around the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up criticism of the deal in recent weeks, pointing out that exports from Russia, another major grain producer, are being hit by sanctions.
Moscow justified the suspension with a drone attack targeting the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Saturday morning in Sevastopol Bay in annexed Crimea.
“In view of the terrorist act carried out by the Kyiv regime with the participation of British experts against the ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels engaged in the protection of grain corridors, Russia is suspending its participation in the implementation of the agreement. Export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced in a telegram.
Faced with these allegations, British Defense reacted by denouncing “disinformation” intended to “divert concern”.
“Made Up Story”
According to Russian officials, the attack was carried out early Saturday morning by “nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous maritime drones,” causing “minor damage” to the minesweeper and control boom in Sevastopol Bay.
“Preparation for this act of terror and training for the military personnel of 73e The Ukrainian Special Maritime Operations Center was carried out by British specialists based in Ochakov, Mykolaiv region of Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Telegram.
Moscow accused London of involvement in the explosions that damaged the Russian Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September and vowed to refer the question to the UN Security Council.
“Russia has repeatedly called for a joint investigation into the attacks […]. The West’s rejection of the proposal confirms it: they have something to hide,” Russian Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense has condemned Russia’s “fabricated narrative” to “distract attention from its disastrous handling of its illegal occupation of Ukraine”.
“Making Problems Worse”
Shortly before the announcement to end the grain deal, the Russian agriculture minister once again criticized the speech, accusing EU countries of monopolizing Ukrainian exports that should go to poorer countries. The allegations were previously denied by the coordination center located in Turkey.
“The grain agreement, unfortunately, not only did not solve the problems of the countries in need, but in a certain sense made them worse,” said Dmitry Patrushev.
In Ukraine, in the south, AFP journalists witnessed artillery fire in the village of Kopchartsy, the last town on the Ukrainian side before contact with the Russians.
“It could go wrong there. But we know that they suffer more on their side than on us,” assured Oleksiy, a Ukrainian soldier in his twenties.
Both sides are preparing for a battle for the regional capital city of Kherson in the region, from where occupation authorities have evacuated tens of thousands of civilians in what Ukraine has described as “deportation”.