This file photo taken on August 14, 2022 shows MV Brave Commander, the first vessel chartered by the UN, loading more than 23,000 tons of grain into the black sea at the port of Yuzhne, east of Odessa. (AFP/OLEKSANDR GIMANOV)
Russia on Saturday suspended a deal on grain exports from Ukrainian ports, crucial to the world’s food supply, accusing Ukraine and the United States of holding it hostage.
Moscow claims the decision was taken after drone strikes on the ships.
Ukraine denounced “a false pretext” and called on Russia to be pressured for “refusing to honor its obligations,” a deal that was concluded in July under the UN and Turkey, the only one between Moscow and Kiev since its inception. Conflict.
In his daily video posted on the Internet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “This decision was not really made today.”
“Russia started increasing global food shortages in September, and it started 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. At the UN level and especially at the G20 level,” Russia must no longer be allowed in, he added.
However, a Turkish defense source told AFP on Saturday evening that “Turkey has not been officially notified” by Moscow of withdrawing from the deal.
US President Joe Biden called Russia’s decision “disgraceful”.
“It’s outrageous. There’s no reason for them to do this,” he told reporters after voting early in the midterm elections in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “By suspending this agreement, Russia is once again using food as a weapon. It’s causing severe humanitarian crises and food insecurity.”
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, insisting it had a “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.
Map of the situation in Ukraine on October 28 at 8:00 GMT (AFP/
“In view of the terrorist act committed 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 export agreement. Agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian Ministry of Defense announced in Telegram.
Faced with these allegations, British Defense reacted by denouncing “disinformation” intended to “divert concern”.
– “Invented Story” –
Russian officials say the attack was carried out by “nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous maritime drones” early Saturday morning, causing “minor damage” to a minesweeper and a control boom in Sevastopol Bay.
“Preparation for this terrorist act and training of military personnel of the 73rd Ukrainian Center for Special Maritime Operations was carried out by British specialists in Ochakov, Mykolaiv region of Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Telegram.
The Marshall Islands-flagged Star Helena leaves the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk on the Black Sea on August 7, 2022, carrying about 45,000 tonnes of sunflowers (AFP / Oleksandr GIMANOV)
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’s repeated attacks (…) have asked for a joint investigation which confirms that Western countries have rejected this proposal: they have something to hide”, declared Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a statement.
The British Ministry of Defense condemned Russia’s “fabricated narrative” to “distract attention from its disastrous management of the illegal occupation of Ukraine”.
– “made problems worse” –
Shortly before the announcement of the termination of the grain deal, the Russian agriculture minister once again criticized the text, 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.
A man carries bread in the village of Trobyshev in eastern Ukraine after the territory was retaken from the Russians on October 28, 2022 (AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF) #
“The grain agreement, unfortunately, 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 place on the Ukrainian side before contact with the Russians.
October 28, 2022 (AFP / BULENT KILIC) Ukrainian soldiers fire at Kherson
“It could go wrong there. But we know they suffer more on their side than on us,” assured Oleksii, 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 called “deportation”.
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