UN chief Antonio Guterres is pushing to revive the Black Sea grain export deal aimed at easing a global food crisis, expressing “deep concern” over Russia’s unilateral suspension of the agreement with Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin’s regime wrote to Mr Guterres on Saturday saying it was suspending its participation in the deal “indefinitely” because it could not “guarantee the safety of civilian vessels” traveling under the pact, after accusing Ukraine from a major drone attack on its Black Sea. fleet stationed in illegally annexed Crimea.
The move will drastically reduce grain shipments from Ukraine, a country often described as the “breadbasket of the world”, and world wheat prices were expected to soar on Monday in what Kyiv called “the games of the hunger” of Moscow.
Mr. Guterres delayed his departure for the Arab League summit in Algiers by a day and was engaging in “intense contacts aimed at the end of the Russian suspension of its participation”, the UN said on Sunday.
Ukraine has warned that 218 ships have been “effectively blocked” by Moscow’s decision, with President Voldymyr Zelensky saying the move threatens to cause large-scale starvation in Africa and Asia.
At the signing of the deal, the UN World Food Program said some 47 million people were suffering from “acute hunger” after Mr Putin’s war halted shipments from Ukraine, causing global food shortages and driving up prices.
The deal had ensured safe passage to and from Odessa and two other Ukrainian ports in what one official called a ‘de facto ceasefire’ for ships and facilities covered . More than 9 million tonnes of maize, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soybeans were exported.
Ukraine’s military has claimed Russia itself may have been responsible for the drone attack on Moscow’s fleet in Sevastopol on Saturday, with Kyiv Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accusing Putin of having used the explosions some 220 km from the grain corridor as a “false pretext” for a long-planned move.
Turkey, which brokered the deal on July 22 alongside the UN, said its defense minister was in talks with its Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to resume the deal and had asked the parties to avoid any “provocation”.
The Joint Coordination Center – the body set up by the UN, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine that coordinated the deal – said on Saturday night it was ‘discussing next steps’ following the decision from Moscow, with at least 10 ships waiting to enter the humanitarian corridor.
The following night he announced that the UN, Ukraine and Turkey had agreed on a plan to move 14 vessels currently in Turkish waters on Monday and to carry out inspections on 40 outgoing vessels – the Moscow delegation being informed of the plans.
The grain deal was due to expire on November 19, when Russia had repeatedly claimed it had serious problems with the deal, while Mr Zelensky accused Moscow of blocking some 175 ships in the corridor since september.
Mr Guterres, who had pushed for an extension beyond the expiry date, was also seeking on Sunday “the renewal and full implementation of the initiative to facilitate exports of food and fertilizers from Ukraine, as well as removing remaining obstacles to exports”. of Russian food and fertilizers,” the UN said.
Faced with a growing threat of Ukrainian counter-offensives, Mr Putin has increasingly resorted to Russian drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure in recent weeks – which have destroyed more than 30% of the country’s energy capacity. Ukraine.
Kyiv often accuses Russia of using its Black Sea Fleet to fire cruise missiles at Ukrainian civilian targets, and some military analysts say that makes the fleet a legitimate military target.
In a remarkable accusation against a NATO member, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed on Saturday that “specialists” from Britain’s Royal Navy had helped coordinate the attack on its fleet in Sevastopol – and of involvement in ” the terrorist attack” on the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month.
The UK Ministry of Defense called Russia’s allegations “misrepresentations of epic proportions” intended to “undermine their disastrous handling of the unlawful invasion of Ukraine”.
Moscow’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said Russia had asked the UN Security Council to meet on Monday to discuss the attack on Sevastopol, which Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.
Mr Zelensky, meanwhile, called for a strong UN and G20 response to what he called Russia’s absurd decision on the grain deal.
US President Joe Biden called Russia’s move “purely outrageous” and warned it would increase starvation, while his Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponizing food.
“Any act by Russia to disrupt these critical grain exports is essentially a statement that people and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry,” Blinken said.
However, the Russian ambassador countered that Washington’s response to the “terrorist attack” on Sevastopol was “truly outrageous”, accusing the United States of failing to condemn “the reckless actions of the Kyiv regime” and of ” disregard” Moscow’s claims about British involvement.
Additional reports per AP
The Independent Gt