- Moscow justifies its decision by a drone attack on Russian ships in the Black Sea on Saturday and accuses the Ukrainians, helped by the United Kingdom, of being at the origin.
According to Russian authorities, the attack took place in the early morning hours of Saturday with “nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous maritime drones,” causing “minor damage” to a minesweeping ship and the containment dam in Sevastopol Bay.
“The preparation of this terrorist act and the training of military personnel of the 73rd Ukrainian Center for Special Maritime Operations was carried out by British specialists based in Ochakov, Mykolaiv region of Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram.
Moscow has also accused London of involvement in the explosions that damaged Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September and promised to refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
“Russia has repeatedly called for a joint investigation into the attacks (…). The fact that Western countries refused this proposal confirms this: they have something to hide,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
The British Ministry of Defence denounced a “made-up story” by Russia to “divert attention from its disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
Russia on Saturday suspended the agreement on grain exports from Ukrainian ports, vital to the world’s food supply, which Ukraine and the United States accused of taking hostage.
Moscow says the decision was made after a drone attack on the ships.
Ukraine denounced “a false pretext” and called for pressure for Russia to “commit again to respect its obligations” for this agreement concluded in July under the auspices of the UN and Turkey, the only one between Moscow and Kiev since the beginning of the conflict.
In his daily video posted on the internet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “this decision was not in fact from today.”
“Russia began to worsen the global food shortage in September, when it began blocking the movement of ships carrying our agricultural products,” he said.
“This is a transparent intention by Russia to raise the spectre of large-scale famine again in Africa and Asia,” he added.
According to him, at least 176 ships carrying more than two million tons of grain were already blocked by Moscow.
“A vigorous international response is needed. At the level of the UN and in particular at the level of the G20”, to which Russia should no longer be admitted, he added.
US President Joe Biden called Russia’s decision “outrageous”. “It’s just outrageous.
There was no reason for them to do that,” he told reporters after voting early in the midterm elections in his stronghold of Wilmington, Delaware.
State Secretary Antony Blinken said: “By suspending this agreement, Russia is once again using food as a weapon in the war it has unleashed, which has a direct impact on low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbates already severe humanitarian crises and food insecurity,” said Mr. Blinken.
The grain deal has allowed the export of millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukrainian ports since the conflict began in February.
The blockade had caused food prices to soar, raising fears of famine.
The UN, the guarantor of the agreement, called for it to be preserved, stressing that it had a “positive impact” on access to food for millions of people around the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been critical of the deal in recent weeks, pointing out that exports from Russia, another major grain producer, are suffering because of the sanctions.
Moscow justified the suspension with a drone attack that targeted Russia’s Black Sea fleet stationed in annexed Crimea’s Sevastopol Bay on Saturday morning.
“In view of the terrorist act carried out by the Kiev regime with the participation of British experts against ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels involved in the security of grain corridors, Russia suspends its participation in the implementation of the agreement on exports of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Telegram.
Faced with these accusations, the British Defence reacted by denouncing “false information” intended to “divert attention”.