Blinken again accuses Russia of re-arming food with the end of the grain agreement with Ukraine
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia’s halt to participation in the United Nations-brokered Black Sea Initiative grains deal is weaponizing food by exacerbating humanitarian crises, the Secretary of State said on Saturday. US State Antony Blinken.
“Any act by Russia to disrupt these critical grain exports is essentially a statement that individuals and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry,” Blinken said in a statement.
Russia on Saturday suspended its participation in the grain deal after what it called a major Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet in Crimea.
US President Joe Biden called the move “purely outrageous” and said it would increase starvation.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol on the annexed Crimean Peninsula with 16 drones early Saturday, and British Navy ‘specialists’ helped coordinate the attack. ‘terrorist attack”.
The suspension will reduce Ukrainian grain exports from its crucial Black Sea ports.
“There is no merit in what they are doing. The UN brokered this deal and that should be the end of it,” Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware.
The deal allows grain shipments from Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters, which the Russian invasion had halted.
Russia told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter, seen by Reuters, that it was suspending the deal for an “indefinite period” because it could not “guarantee the safety of civilian ships” traveling in the framework of the pact.
Russia also asked the UN Security Council to meet on the attack on Monday, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
The UN coordinator for the Istanbul-based Black Sea Grains Agreement Coordination Center – made up of UN, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials – said five outgoing and four incoming ships had safely crossed the humanitarian corridor.
“There are more than 10 outbound and inbound ships waiting to enter the corridor,” Amir Abdulla said in a statement, adding that there was no agreement between the parties for the movement of the ships on Sunday.
Britain said on Saturday that Russian claims, including that British naval personnel blew up Nord Stream pipelines last month, were false and aimed to distract from Russian military failures.
Russia said it repelled the attack but the targeted ships were involved in securing the grain corridor out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said what he called Russia’s absurd decision required a strong international response from the UN and the Group of 20 major economies.
“This is a completely transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine for Africa, for Asia,” Zelensky said in a video address, adding that Russia should be expelled from the G20.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow was using a false pretext to derail the deal.
“I call on all states to demand that Russia end its hunger games and renew its obligations,” Kuleba said.
In a statement, the European Union said “all parties must refrain from any unilateral action that would jeopardize” an agreement it described as an essential humanitarian effort.
Since Russia and Ukraine signed the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative in Turkey on July 22, more than 9 million tons of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soybeans were exported.
But before the deal expired on Nov. 19, Russia had repeatedly said there were serious problems with it. Ukraine has complained that Moscow has blocked nearly 200 ships from taking on grain shipments.
The UN is in contact with Russian authorities about the situation, a UN spokesperson said.
Although prices in Western markets have been reduced, Russia has gained nothing from this deal,” said Turan Oguz, a Turkish defense analyst. “I think the main reason for Russia’s withdrawal is Western indifference towards Russia.”
Just 24 hours before Russia’s intervention, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the parties to renew the pact.
Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said Russia was ready to provide up to 500,000 tonnes of grain to poor countries for free over the next four months, with the help of Turkey, and to supplant Ukrainian grain supply.