Russia’s blockade of grain exports makes it “impossible” for fully laden ships to leave, Ukraine charged on Sunday after Moscow claimed drone attacks on its Crimean fleet exploited the grain corridor safe zone.
Sea grain exports from Kyiv were halted after Russia withdrew from a landmark agreement that allowed vital shipments.
July agreement to unblock grain exports signed between warring nations Russia and Ukraine – and through Turkey and the United Nations – is key to alleviating the global food crisis caused by the conflict.
“(A) bulk carrier loaded with 40 tonnes of grain was due to leave the Ukrainian port today,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted.
“These foodstuffs were intended for the Ethiopians, who are on the verge of starvation. But due to the blocking of the “grain corridor” by Russia export is impossible,” the Ukrainian minister said.
The agreement, which established a safe corridor through which ships could travel to Istanbul for inspections, had already enabled the export of more than 9 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain and was due to be renewed on November 19.
Russia announced on Saturday that it would withdraw from the agreement after accusing Kyiv of a “massive” drone attack on its Black Sea fleet, which Ukraine called a “false pretext”.
US President Joe Biden called the move “purely outrageous” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Moscow was “arming the food”.
The Russian Defense Ministry alleged on Sunday that the attack drones had “Canadian-made navigation modules” and that they were “moving within the ‘grain corridor’ security zone.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday expressed “deep concern” over the situation, his spokesman said, and postponed his departure for an Arab League summit in Algiers for a day.” to focus on the issue”.
The EU urged on Sunday Russia to “go back on his decision”.
Enough grain to ‘feed millions’
The center coordinating logistics for the deal said in a statement that no traffic would cross the security corridor on Sunday.
“A joint agreement has not been reached… for the movement of incoming and outgoing vessels on October 30,” he said. “There are more than 10 outbound and inbound ships waiting to enter the corridor.”
Later on Sunday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said the ships would not leave Ukraine “during this period”, but that Turkey would continue checks on ships in Istanbul carrying Ukrainian grain “today and tomorrow”.
He also said Russia had formally notified Turkey of its suspension but “Russian personnel remained at the coordination center” in Istanbul.
The Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center (JCC) announced later on Sunday that Russia had also suspended its participation in grain inspections.
Ninety-seven laden ships were waiting to clear customs off Istanbul on Sunday, the United Nations, which coordinates the JCC, said in a statement, adding that it proposed to reopen the “maritime humanitarian corridor” on Monday. to 14 ships.
In his evening address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “more than 2 million tons of food” was at sea, but blocked by Russian stocks.
“It is an absolutely transparent intention to Russia to deflect the threat of large-scale famine to Africa and Asia,” he added.
“Trade false statements”
Sevastopol, in Crimea annexed to Moscow, has been targeted several times in recent months and serves as the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet and a logistics hub for operations in Ukraine.
The Russian military claimed to have “destroyed” nine aerial drones and seven maritime drones in an attack on the port on Saturday morning.
He alleged that British “specialists” based in the southern Ukrainian town of Ochakiv helped prepare and train Kyiv to carry out the strike.
In another accolade from the UK – which Moscow considers one of the most hostile Western countries – Russia said the same British unit was involved in explosions on Nord Stream gas pipelines last month.
Britain has strongly refuted both claims, saying “the Russian Ministry of Defense is resorting to peddling false claims on an epic scale.”
The Moscow military said ships targeted at their Crimean base were involved in the grain deal.
Russia had recently criticized the deal, saying its own grain exports had suffered from Western sanctions.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-based governor of Sevastopol, said Saturday’s drone attack was the “most massive” the peninsula has seen.
Attacks on Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, have recently increased as Kyiv launches a counter-offensive in the south to retake territory held by Moscow.
In early October, the key Moscow bridge linking Crimea to the Russian mainland was damaged in an explosion that President Vladimir Putin blamed on Ukraine.
Kyiv said on Sunday that its troops in the south were “holding their positions and striking the enemy in order to create the conditions for further offensive actions”.
Moscow-based authorities in Kherson, just north of Crimea, have vowed to turn the city into a fortress, preparing for an inevitable assault.