- The UN announces that sixteen ships will move on October 31
- Russia says move responds to Ukraine attack on ships
- July deal allowed grain exports from Ukraine
- US, NATO and EU urge Russia to change course on deal
KYIV/NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) – The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine are scrambling to implement a Black Sea grain deal with a transit plan in place for 16 vessels on Monday, although that Russia suspended its participation in the pact which allowed the export of Ukrainian agricultural products to world markets.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, on Saturday suspended its role in the Black Sea deal for an “indefinite period” because it could say it could not “guarantee the safety of ships civilians” traveling as part of the pact after an attack on its Black Sea Fleet.
The United Nations and Turkey, two main brokers of the July deal, rushed to save it on Sunday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was deeply concerned about Russia’s decision and delayed a foreign trip to try to revive the deal that was meant to ease a global food crisis, his spokesperson said. speech.
Following Russia’s move, wheat prices in international commodity markets are expected to jump on Monday, with Russia and Ukraine among the world’s largest wheat exporters, analysts said.
More than 9.5 million tonnes of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soybeans have been exported since July. As part of the agreement, a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) – made up of UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials – agrees on the movement of ships and inspects vessels.
No ship crossed the maritime humanitarian corridor established on Sunday. But the United Nations said in a statement it had agreed with Ukraine and Turkey on a movement plan for 16 ships on Monday – 12 outbound and four inbound.
He said Russian JCC officials had been briefed on the plan, as well as the intention to inspect 40 outgoing vessels on Monday, and noted that “all participants are coordinating with their respective military authorities and other relevant authorities to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels”. “as part of the deal.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in contact with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts to try to salvage the deal and had asked the parties to avoid any provocation, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.
NATO and the European Union urged Russia to reconsider its decision. US President Joe Biden on Saturday called Russia’s move “purely outrageous” and said it would increase starvation. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Moscow of weaponizing food.
On Sunday, Russia’s ambassador to Washington hit back, saying the US response was “outrageous” and made false claims about Moscow’s decision.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol early with 16 drones and British Navy “specialists” helped coordinate what it called a terror attack. Britain denied the claim. Russia said it repelled the attack but the targeted ships were involved in securing the grain corridor out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied being behind the attack. The Ukrainian army has suggested that the Russians themselves may have been responsible for the explosions.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow had used the explosions 220 km (137 miles) from the grain corridor as a “false pretext” for a long-planned move.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff on Saturday accused Russia of fabricating attacks on its own facilities.
Ukraine often accuses Russia of using the Black Sea Fleet to fire cruise missiles at Ukrainian civilian targets, a charge supported by some military analysts who say this makes the fleet a legitimate military target.
The Russian invasion has recently been dominated by a Ukrainian counteroffensive and Russian drone and missile attacks that have destroyed more than 30% of Ukraine’s production capacity and hit populated areas. Each side accused the other of being ready to detonate radioactive bombs.
Russia has asked the UN Security Council to meet on Monday to discuss the Sevastopol attack, UN Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
The grain deal had revived shipments from Ukraine, allowing sales on world markets, targeting the pre-war level of 5 million metric tons exported from Ukraine each month.
But before it expired on November 19, Russia had said there were serious problems with it and Ukraine complained that Moscow had blocked nearly 200 ships from picking up grain shipments.
The agreement ensured safe passage to and from Odessa and two other Ukrainian ports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of wanting to escalate the crisis, saying 218 ships were stuck waiting to transport food or enter Ukrainian ports.
Zelenskiy said 40,000 tons of wheat had been loaded onto a ship at the port of Chornomorsk, chartered by the United Nations Food Program and destined for Ethiopia which he said was “on the brink of starvation” and, as Yemen and Somalia, facing “catastrophic” food shortages.
“We are ready to release this ship at sea,” he said, but like other ships carrying agricultural products, he was forced to wait, “because Russia is blackmailing the world with the hungry,” he said.
Zelenskiy called for a strong response from major economies in the United Nations and the Group of 20 (G20) to what he called Russia’s absurd decision on the grain deal, saying in a video address on Saturday that this decision threatened to cause large-scale famine in Africa and Asia. .
Reporting by David Ljunggren and Reuters bureaus; Written by William Mallard, Guy Faulconbridge, Tomasz Janowski, Philippa Fletcher and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Frances Kerry, Will Dunham and Sandra Maler
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