Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Russia has suspended its participation in a United Nations brokered deal to provide safe transit for Ukrainian grain, following a major drone strike in the annexed Crimea peninsula.
Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday accused the Ukrainian military of sending nine aerial drones and seven autonomous marine unmanned vehicles to attack warships and civilian cargo stationed in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
“The Russian side suspends participation in the implementation of agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” it said.
The exact scale of damage from the strike is not entirely clear yet. According to the defense ministry, nearly all of the attacking drones were destroyed by Russian forces and only one of its warships suffered “minor damage” from the incident.
Meanwhile, a video posted on social media by Ukrainian journalist Andriy Tsaplienko purported to show several of the kamikaze boats crashing into Russian warships.
Sevastopol serves as the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which has played a central role in Moscow’s recent missile bombardment campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure. The port city was annexed by Russia from Ukraine along with the rest of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
Although Kyiv has not yet formally accepted responsibility for the drone strike on Sevastopol, several high-ranking Ukrainian officials celebrated the attack on social media.
Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark grain export agreement in July under the supervision of the U.N. and Turkey. The deal was meant to help ease the global food crisis by providing ships carrying Ukrainian grain with safe passage through the Black Sea.
More than nine million tons of grain have been exported through Ukrainian ports since the agreement was concluded, according to data from Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure. The deal was up for renewal on November 19.
Even before Saturday’s drone strike, there were growing signs of Russia’s dissatisfaction with the implementation of the agreement.
During a speech in early September, President Vladimir Putin declared that the bulk of grain exported from Ukraine was sent to Europe instead of developing nations struggling with food security – a claim disputed by the Biden administration.
Moscow has also accused the West of maintaining all of its sanctions-related barriers against the export of Russian food products despite assurances that they would be rolled back under the deal.
Russian Minister of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushev told state media on Saturday that Moscow was prepared to supply the world’s poorest nations with up to 500 thousand tons of grain free of charge over the next four months.
“Taking this year’s harvest into account, Russia is ready to completely replace Ukrainian grain and deliver supplies at affordable prices to all interested countries,” he said. “This year, 150 million tons of grain have already been harvested in Russia, and we estimate the export potential for the current season at more than 50 million tons.”
That offer did little to ease criticism from the West, however. President Biden called Russia’s suspension of the Ukraine grain deal “purely outrageous” and warned that it would increase global hunger.
“There’s no merit to what they’re doing,” he told reporters on Saturday. “The U.N. negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it.”
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell likewise urged Russia to reverse its decision, tweeting that the collapse of the grain deal “threatens the main export route for much-needed grains and fertilizers to overcome the global food crisis.”
During a video address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of having imposed a “deliberate blockade” on Ukrainian grain ships beginning in September – more than a month before the drone attack in Sevastopol.
He also called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of 20 major economies. ahead of the G20 annual leaders summit in Bali, Indonesia next month.