The grain agreement, concluded in July under the aegis of the UN and Turkey, had allowed the export of several million tonnes of grain stuck in Ukrainian ports since the start of the conflict in February.
The Joint Coordination Center (JCC) responsible for overseeing this agreement confirmed that no cargo movement had been validated for the day on Sunday. Nine cargo ships were able to use the maritime corridor in the Black Sea on Saturday and “more than ten others” are ready to do the same in both directions, specifies the Center.
In his daily video posted on the internet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that the Russian decision “in fact did not date from today”.
“Russia began to aggravate the global food shortage in September, when it began to block the movements of ships carrying our agricultural products,” he said.
“This is a transparent Russian intention to raise the specter of large-scale famine once again in Africa and Asia,” he added. According to him, at least 176 ships carrying more than two million tons of grain were already blocked by Moscow. “A vigorous international response is needed. At the level of the UN and in particular at the level of the G20”, to which Russia should no longer be admitted, he added.
“It’s just outrageous”
US President Joe Biden called Russia’s decision “scandalous”.
“It’s just outrageous. There was no reason for them to do this,” he told reporters after voting early in the midterm elections in his stronghold of Wilmington, Delaware (east).
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “By suspending this agreement, Russia is once again using food as a weapon in the war it started, which has a direct impact on income countries. low and medium levels and on world food prices, and exacerbates already severe humanitarian crises and food insecurity”.
Millions of tonnes of grain jammed
The grain deal has allowed the export of millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukrainian ports since the conflict began in February. This blockage had caused food prices to soar, raising fears of famine.
The UN, guarantor of the agreement, called for it to be preserved, stressing that it had a “positive impact” for access to food for millions of people around the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ramped up criticism of the deal in recent weeks, pointing out that exports from Russia, another major grain producer, were suffering because of the sanctions.
Moscow justified this suspension by a drone attack which targeted the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Saturday morning stationed in the bay of Sevastopol, in annexed Crimea.
“In view of the terrorist act carried out by the kyiv regime with the participation of British experts against ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian ships involved in the security of grain corridors, Russia is suspending its participation in the implementation of the agreement on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Telegram.
Faced with these accusations, the British Defense reacted by denouncing “false information” intended to “divert attention”.
“Made up story”
According to Russian authorities, the attack took place in the early hours of Saturday with “nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous maritime drones”, causing “minor damage” to a minesweeping vessel and the containment boom in the bay. of Sevastopol.
“The preparation for this terrorist act and the training of military personnel from the 73rd Ukrainian Special Maritime Operations Center were carried out by British specialists based in Ochakov, in the Mykolaiv region of Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram.
Moscow has also accused London of being involved in the explosions that damaged the Russian Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September and promised to submit the question to the UN Security Council.
“Russia has repeatedly called for a joint investigation into the attacks… The fact that Western countries have refused this proposal confirms it: they have something to hide,” said Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
The British Ministry of Defense has denounced a “fabricated story” by Russia to “distract attention from its disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine”.
“Makes the problems worse”
Shortly before the announcement of the suspension of the cereals agreement, the Russian Minister of Agriculture had once again criticized the text, accusing the EU countries of monopolizing Ukrainian exports which should go to poor countries. These allegations had previously been denied by the coordination center located in Turkey.
“The grain agreement, unfortunately, not only did not solve the problems of the countries in need, but even aggravated them in a certain sense,” said Dmitry Patrushev.
In Ukraine, on the southern front, AFP journalists witnessed artillery battles in the village of Kobzartsi, the last locality on the Ukrainian side before the line of contact with the Russians. “It can go wrong there. But we know that they suffer much more on their side than on ours,” assured a Ukrainian soldier, Oleksiï, in his twenties.
Both sides are preparing in this area for the battle for the city of Kherson, the regional capital, from where the occupation authorities have evacuated tens of thousands of civilians, what Ukraine has called “deportations”.
Joseph Borrell reacts
The EU has “urged Russia to reconsider its decision” to suspend the agreement on grain exports from Ukrainian ports, vital for the world’s food supply, European diplomacy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet on Sunday. .