Russia Suspending Participation in Black Sea Grain Initiative Grain Deal with Ukraine

Russian defense ministry on Saturday said Moscow was halting participation in the United Nations-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative agreement after what it said was a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. The agreement was signed in July but was set to expire on Nov. 19. There have been continual threats from Russian President Putin and the deal was seen as uncertain. The July deal ended a five-month Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports.

UN News Black Sea Grain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre

The statement from the defense ministry read, “Russian suspends its participation in the implementation of the agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukraine.”

Under the pact, Ukrainian pilots guide ships through Ukrainian minefields around the ports and are then given safe passage by the Russian Navy to Turkey.

As of Oct. 27, more than 9.2 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs had been exported under the agreement, according to data shared by the United Nations.

The original deal was chaotic at best and was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey. The deal’s primary goal was to end Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian exports, which given Ukraine and Russia export around 30% of wheat alone the global food crisis was threatening many dependent peoples. The deal allowed for more shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer. As part of the deal, the United States and the European Union gave assurances that banks and companies involved in trading Russian grain and fertilizer would be exempt from sanctions.

The United Nations said Saturday it had made contact with the Russian authorities regarding the reports.

“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,” Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said.

U.N. officials have hailed the deal and driving down world food prices and averting a global hunger crisis.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba responded saying his government had warned that Russia would try to upend the deal.

“Now Moscow uses a false pretext to block the grain corridor which ensures food security for millions of people,” he wrote on Twitter. “I call on all states to demand Russia to stop its hunger games and recommit to its obligations.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine earlier in October accused Russia of deliberately slowing grain exports to create a food crisis. There was a backlog of 150 ships waiting to transport Ukrainian wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other products, he said in his nightly address on Oct. 21.

“I believe that with these actions, Russia is deliberately inciting the food crisis so that it becomes as acute at it was in the first half of the year,” Mr. Zelensky had said. There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin, but United Nations officials had confirmed the backlog of ships.

Sources: Reuters, UN

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