kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Russia announced Saturday that it will immediately suspend implementation of a United Nations-brokered grain deal that made it possible to export more than 9 million tons of grain from Ukraine during the war and has lowered world food prices. Ukraine accused Russia of creating a “hunger games” world.
The Russian Defense Ministry cited as a reason for the move an alleged Ukrainian drone attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet ships docked off the coast of the occupied Crimean peninsula, which Russia said took place early on Saturday. Ukraine has denied carrying out the attack, saying the Russians mishandled their own weapons.
The Russian statement came a day after UN Director Antonio Guterres called on Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain export agreement that expires on November 19. Guterres also urged other countries, mainly in the West, to speed up the removal of obstacles to Russian grain and fertilizer exports.
The UN chief said the grain deal, negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey in July, had helped “cushion the suffering that this global cost-of-living crisis is inflicting on billions of people,” Stephane Dujarric added. Guterres spokesman.
UN officials were in contact with Russian authorities about the announced suspension, Dujarric said.
“It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that could jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative, which is a critical humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people,” Dujarric stressed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the Russian move “predictable” and accused Moscow of “blocking” ships carrying grain since September. Currently, he said, 176 ships are stranded at sea with more than two million tons of food.
“This is a clear attempt by Russia to return to the threat of a large-scale famine in Africa and Asia,” Zelenskyy said in his late-night video message on Saturday. He called for a harsh response against Russia from international bodies such as the UN and the G20.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to Twitter on Saturday to accuse Russia of creating “the Hunger Games” by jeopardizing global food shipments.
In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the suspension regrettable and called on “all parties to keep this essential, life-saving initiative going.”
“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 in a statement late Saturday. “By suspending this deal, Russia is turning food back into weapons in the war they themselves started, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating humanitarian crises and insecurity. food that beforehand are terrible.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused British specialists of involvement in the alleged drone attack on Russian ships in Crimea. The British Ministry of Defense did not immediately comment on the accusation.
The head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, denounced the Russian suspension as “primitive blackmail”.
The Russian Agriculture Minister said that Moscow is ready to “completely replace Ukrainian grain and supply it at affordable prices to all interested countries.” In remarks picked up by the state television channel Rossiya 24, Dmitry Patrushev said that Moscow was ready to “provide free up to 500,000 tons of grain to the poorest countries in the next four months”, with the help of Turkey.
Moments earlier on Saturday, Ukraine and Russia offered differing accounts of the suspected drone attack in Crimea, in which at least one Russian ship was damaged in a port on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that a minesweeper suffered “minor damage” during Ukraine’s alleged pre-dawn attack on Russian Navy ships and civilian ships anchored in Sevastopol, which is home to the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Russian forces had “fought back” 16 attacking drones, according to the ministry.
But an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry claimed that “careless handling of explosives” had caused explosions in four warships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Telegram that the vessels included a frigate, a landing ship and a ship carrying cruise missiles used in a deadly July attack on a western Ukrainian city.
In other developments on Saturday, Russian troops removed a large number of sick and wounded comrades from hospitals in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region, the Ukrainian military said Saturday, as its forces struggled to liberate an invaded province. by invading soldiers early in the war.
Kremlin-installed authorities in the mostly Russian-occupied region earlier urged civilians to leave the city of Kherson, the capital of the region of the same name. Moscow-appointed authorities in Kherson were also reported to have left the city, joining tens of thousands of residents who fled to other Russian-held areas ahead of an expected advance by Ukrainian forces.
“The so-called evacuation of invaders from the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region continues, including in medical institutions,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced in a morning report. “All equipment and medicines are being withdrawn from Kherson Hospitals,” he added.
It was not possible to independently verify the military’s claims. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also claimed in a televised address Friday night that the Russians were “dismantling the entire health care system” in Kherson and other occupied areas.
“The occupants have decided to close medical institutions in the cities, take away equipment, ambulances. Just everything,” Zelenskyy said. “They pressured the doctors who were still in the occupied areas to move to Russian territory.”
Kherson is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and subsequently declared martial law. The others are Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia.
As Ukrainian forces sought gains in the south, Russia continued its campaign of shelling and missile attacks in the east of the country, Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday. Three civilians were killed in the last day and eight more were wounded in the Donetsk region, which has again become a flashpoint on the battlefront as Russian soldiers try to capture the city of Bakhmut.