Russia halts Black Sea grain trade after attack, points finger at UK

Russia has announced its withdrawal from a UN-brokered agreement with Kyiv that guaranteed the safe transport of Ukrainian wheat across the Black Sea.

The move comes in response to an attack on a Russian naval vessel anchored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, with Moscow accusing the Ukrainian military of working in tandem with British military “experts”. there is

“In view of the terrorist acts committed by the Kyiv regime with the participation of British experts, Russia is suspending its participation in agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. said.

In the early hours of October 29, Russian naval ships in the port of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is headquartered, reportedly came under heavy attack by multiple air and surface drones. Russian sources said the minesweeper was slightly damaged in the attack, but no casualties were reported.

Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni carrying Ukrainian grain is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos
The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni carrying Ukrainian grain in the Black Sea off Kyrgios near Istanbul, Turkey, August 2, 2022. (Yoruk Isik/Reuters)

Later that day, Moscow abruptly announced its withdrawal from the UN-brokered Black Sea Grains Initiative.

“The Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea Initiative and will suspend its implementation indefinitely from today,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey this summer, aimed to ensure continued exports of wheat from three Ukrainian ports. Under this agreement, a joint coordination center staffed by the United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine was established in Istanbul to inspect cargo ships and coordinate the movement of cargo ships through the Black Sea.

More than 9 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat have reportedly been exported to various buyers abroad since the deal came into force in July. According to the United Nations, the deal has cut global food prices, which peaked in March, by about 15%.

More than 200 cargo ships are now “virtually blocked” from leaving Ukraine as a result of Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement, Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure said on Oct. 30.

On the same day, NATO called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to renew the initiative and “stop the weaponization of food”.

Responding to claims that the suspension of the pact would lead to food shortages, Russia’s Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev said Moscow is ready to supply poor countries with 500,000 tonnes of wheat free of charge over the next four months, with the help of Turkey. said it is done.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on October 31 that Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had held urgent talks with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in hopes of reviving the stalled initiative.

“Epic Scale”

Meanwhile, Kyiv officials have neither confirmed nor denied their country’s involvement in the Sevastopol attack.

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff at the Ukrainian president’s office, has accused Russia of carrying out “imaginary terrorist attacks on its own facilities.”

But Moscow claims that Ukrainian forces carried out the attack on the Black Sea Fleet with British backing.

“The preparation of this terrorist act and the training of military personnel of the 73rd Naval Operations Special Center of Ukraine were carried out under the guidance of British experts in Ukraine. [southern Ukrainian] Ochakiv town,” said the Russian Ministry of Defense.

In a notable escalation, the ministry also blamed the same squad of “British experts” for last month’s brazen attack on the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which links Russian gas fields to Northern Europe.

“According to available information, members of this unit of the Royal Navy took part in the planning, preparation and conduct of the terrorist attacks in the Baltic Sea on 26 September this year, which bombed Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. gas pipeline,” the ministry said.

It provided no evidence for that claim. Nor did it elaborate on the “information” it claimed to have in its possession related to last month’s attacks.

British officials vehemently deny Moscow’s allegations.

“The Russian Ministry of Defense seeks to make false allegations on a grand scale to undermine their disastrous response to an illegal invasion of Ukraine,” the UK Ministry of Defense said.

“This hoax says more about ongoing discussions within the Russian government than about the West,” he added.

In late September, a strategic pipeline was deliberately breached in Swedish and Danish waters, sparking a flurry of condemnation between the European capital and Moscow. The latter strongly hints at Western involvement, but has so far refrained from explicitly denouncing state actors.

On October 14, Sweden abruptly halted a joint investigation with Denmark and Germany into sabotage, citing “national security” concerns.

A week later, a Kremlin spokesman cryptically said that Europeans would be “surprised” if the “truth” about the Nord Stream incident was made public.

Moscow reportedly asked the UN Security Council meeting on October 31 to discuss the allegations.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.

Adam Morrow