Russia has pulled the plug on the UN deal to allow exports of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea following an attack on ships in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said at the weekend that “in connection with the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces… the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea initiative and suspends its implementation from today for an indefinite period.”
It also claimed that British specialists were involved in the attack, which was fiercely denied by government sources in London.
The UN deal was supposed to make grain purchases more accessible for poorer countries, but data shows that rich nations, led by Spain, received more than half of the shipment volumes, while Turkey and China, seen as middle-income nations accounted for about a quarter of the total. Lower middle income and lower income countries, including Ethiopia and Egypt received just a fifth even though parts of the Horn of Africa are experiencing severe drought and famine.
Ukraine called on the UN and Turkey, which helped seal the original deal, to “send Russia a clear signal about the unacceptable hold on hundreds of millions of people around the world, including Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The head of the United Nations said he was “deeply concerned” by Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the brokered deal. Secretary General Antonia Guterres was engaging in “intense contacts aimed at ending the Russian suspension of its participation”.
NATO said Ukraine’s grain exports had helped reduce food prices across the globe. Wheat prices are expected to leap on Monday as a result of the blockade, which Ukraine said would affect 218 vessels.
Reuters reported the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal was putting at risk the main export route of much needed grain and fertilisers to address the global food crisis.