| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

EU urges Russia to revoke Ukraine Black Sea grain deal suspension

The European Union on Sunday urged Russia to reconsider its decision to leave a grain deal mediated by the United Nations, a move that hampered attempts to solve a worldwide food crisis and was allegedly well-planned by Moscow, according to Ukraine.

In response to what it described as a significant Ukrainian drone attack earlier in the day on its fleet near the port of Sevastopol in Russian-annexed Crimea, Moscow suspended its participation in the Black Sea agreement on Saturday, effectively cutting shipments from Ukraine, one of the top grain exporters in the world.

“Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risk the main export route of much needed grain and fertilisers to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter.

“The EU urges Russia to (reverse) its decision.”

On Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden called the move “purely outrageous”, saying it would increase starvation, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponizing food. On Sunday, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, snapped back, saying the U.S. response was “outrageous” and made false assertions about Moscow’s move.

Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol with 16 drones early on Saturday, and that British navy “specialists” had helped coordinate what it called a terrorist attack.

Russia said it had repelled the attack but that the ships targeted were involved in ensuring the grain corridor out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Moscow used the explosions 220 kilometres (137 miles) away from the grain corridor as a “false pretext” for a long-intended move.

“Russia has planned this well in advance,” Kuleba said on Twitter. “Russia took the decision to resume its hunger games long ago and now tries to justify it,” he said, without offering any evidence.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff accused Russia on Saturday of inventing attacks on its own facilities.

Kyiv often accuses Russia of using the Black Sea Fleet to fire cruise missiles at Ukrainian civilian targets, a charge supported by some military analysts, who say that makes the fleet a legitimate military target.

Moscow also accused British navy personnel of blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, a claim that London said was false and designed to distract from Russian military failures in Ukraine.

Russia’s departure from the grain deal marks a new development in an eight-month war that began with Russia’s invasion in February and that has recently been dominated by a Ukrainian counteroffensive and Russian drone and missile attacks that have destroyed more than 30% of Ukraine’s generating capacity and hit populated areas.

Both sides have claimed that the other is ready to employ radioactive bombs as a weapon.

Zelenskiy demanded a resounding response from the G20 big economies and the UN to what he called Russia’s absurd move on the grain deal.

In a video message on Saturday, Zelenskiy said, “This is a completely blatant attempt by Russia to return to the fear of large-scale starvation for Africa, for Asia,” adding that Russia should be expelled from the G20.

  • Reuters