Russia says it will suspend UN-brokered Ukraine grain export deal
- Russia cited an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against Russian ships moored off the coast of Crimea on Saturday as the reason for the move
- Ukraine has denied the attack. Russia’s declaration came a day after UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain export deal
Russia announced on Saturday that it will move to suspend its implementation of a UN-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.
The Russian Defence Ministry cited an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet ships moored off the coast of occupied Crimea, which Russia says took place early on Saturday, as the reason for the move. Ukraine has denied the attack, saying that the Russians mishandled their own weapons.
The Russian declaration came one day after UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain export deal. Guterres also urged other countries, mainly in the West, to expedite the removal of obstacles blocking Russian grain and fertiliser exports.
The UN chief said the grain deal – brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye in July and which expires on November 19 – helps “to cushion the suffering that this global cost-of-living crisis is inflicting on billions of people”, his spokesman said.
A Guterres spokesman said UN officials were in touch with Russian authorities over the announced suspension.
“It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would imperil the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is a critical humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people,” said the spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused British specialists of being involved in the alleged attack by drones on Russian ships in Crimea.
“In connection with the actions of Ukrainian armed forces, led by British specialists, directed, among other things, against Russian ships that ensure the functioning of the humanitarian corridor in question (which cannot be qualified otherwise than as a terrorist attack), the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships taking part in the Black Sea initiative, and suspends its implementation from today for an indefinite period,” the Russian statement said.
Britain’s Defence Ministry had no immediate comment.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of playing “hunger games” by imperilling global food shipments.
“We warned about Russia’s plans to destroy the [grain agreement]. Now, under false pretences, Moscow is blocking the grain corridor that ensures food security for millions of people,” he tweeted Saturday.
The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, denounced the suspension as “primitive blackmail”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies in the world. Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Bangladesh, Vietnam - these and other countries could suffer from a further aggravation of the food crisis that Russia is deliberately provoking,” Zelensky said in his evening video address.
“Why can a handful of people somewhere in the Kremlin decide whether there will be food on the tables of people in Egypt or Bangladesh?”
What is needed, Zelensky said, is a strong response from the United Nations, but also from the G20 group of major industrialised and emerging countries. “Russia does not belong in the G20,” he said.
Turkish officials said they have not received any official notice of the deal’s suspension.
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 television 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 Türkiye.
Patrushev also reiterated the Kremlin’s earlier allegations that a disproportionate volume of grain exported from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports was bound for European destinations.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine and Russia offered differing versions on the Crimea drone attack in which at least one Russian ship suffered damage in the port on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
The Russian Defence Ministry said a minesweeper had “minor damage” during an alleged predawn Ukrainian attack on navy and civilian vessels docked in Sevastopol, which hosts the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. The ministry claimed Russian forces had “repelled” 16 attacking drones.
The governor of the Sevastopol region, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said the port saw “probably the most massive attack” by air and sea drones. He provided no evidence, saying all video from the area would be held back for security reasons.
But an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry claimed that “careless handling of explosives” had caused blasts on four warships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Telegram that the vessels included a frigate, a landing ship and a ship that carried cruise missiles used in a deadly July attack on a western Ukrainian city.
Also on Saturday, Russia’s army accused the UK of being “involved” in explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, alleging the same British military specialists helped Ukraine plan the drone attack on Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet.
Russia did not provide any evidence, but considers the UK one of the countries most unfriendly to Moscow, with relations sinking to historic lows since the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine.
“Representatives of this unit of the British Navy took part in the planning, provision and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on September 26 that blew up the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement.
London dismissed the claims, with its defence ministry saying this “invented story says more about arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the West”.
Russia has said western countries have not allowed it to take part in international investigations of the explosions.
Instead, it has for weeks hinted that its security services have a different version of what caused the September explosions, while some western countries have called it sabotage and pointed the finger at Russia.
As Kyiv’s forces sought gains in the south, Russia kept up its shelling and missile attacks in the country’s east, Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday.
Three more civilians died and eight more were wounded in the Donetsk region, which has again become a front-line hotspot as Russian soldiers try to capture the city of Bakhmut, an important target in Russia’s stalled eastern offensive.
Russian shelling also hit an industrial building in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region. Around a quarter of the region – including its capital, also called Zaporizhzhia – remains under Ukrainian military control.
In the latest prisoner exchange, 52 Ukrainians, including two former defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, were released on Saturday as part of a swap with Russia, according to Yermak. The steelworks in that bombed-out port city now symbolise Ukrainian resistance.
Also released, he said, was a sailor who defended Ukraine’s Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost seized by Russia in the opening hours of the war. Others coming home were Ukrainian soldiers captured by Moscow near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986 – which Russian forces briefly occupied from February to March.
Associated Press, AFP, dpa contributed to this report