The Sierra Leonean-flagged cargo ship Razoni, transporting Ukrainian grain, is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos near Istanbul, Turkey August 3, 2022.
Mehmet Caliskan | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Moscow has suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement negotiated earlier this year that reopens Ukrainian ports to exports of agricultural products.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday it would stop participating, citing retaliation for Kiev’s “act of terrorism” against Russian warships. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Ukrainian forces had launched “massive air and sea strikes using unmanned aerial vehicles against ships and infrastructure of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at the naval base in Sevastopol.”
Russia also said British operators helped the Ukrainian military carry out the pre-dawn attack, adding that at least 15 drones were involved.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia was using the attack as a “false pretext” to block the “grain corridor that ensures food security for millions of people”.
“We warned about Russia’s plans to ruin the Black Sea Grains Initiative,” Kuleba tweeted. “I call on all states to demand that Russia end its hunger games and once again honor its commitments.”
Before the war, Ukraine and Russia accounted for nearly a quarter of world grain exports until those shipments ground to a halt for nearly six months.
Ukraine is typically the world’s top producer and exporter of sunflower meal, oil and seeds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Ukraine is also the seventh largest wheat producer in the world.
The grain harvester collects wheat in the field near the village of Zgurivka in Kyiv region as Russia continues the war against Ukraine. August 9, 2022.
Maxim Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a United Nations-backed deal negotiated in July, eased Russia’s naval blockade and provided for the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports. The first ship left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 with more than 26,000 tons of corn. Since then, almost 400 ships with a total capacity of 9 million tons have left the ports of Ukraine.
Of the 40 countries receiving Ukrainian food from the initiative, Spain has accepted the majority of agricultural products, totaling 1.8 million tons.
Representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey held negotiations on the creation of the sea corridor in Istanbul earlier this year and signed the landmark agreement in July. The deal, which expires next month, has helped address the growing food crisis, sparked in part by Russia’s war against its former Soviet neighbor.
The United Nations said in a statement that it was in touch with Russian authorities on the matter.
“It is critical that all parties refrain from doing anything that would jeopardize the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which represents a crucial humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world,” wrote Spokesman Stephane Dujarric for the UN Secretary-General, in a statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had sent relevant instructions to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which oversees exports of agricultural products from Ukraine.