A chorus of international condemnation rang out on Sunday over Russia’s sudden decision to suspend its participation in a grain export deal with Ukraine, raising fears of a global food crisis.
The Russian Defense Ministry, citing an alleged Ukrainian drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet off the coast of occupied Crimea, announced the suspension on Saturday. Ukraine has denied the attack, accusing Russia of mismanaging its own weapons.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles implored Russia to reconsider the decision. “The EU urges Russia to reconsider its decision” he tweeted on Sunday.
President Joe Biden weighed in on Saturday, calling the decision “outrageous” and expressing concern that world hunger could increase. “There is no merit in what they are doing. The UN brokered this deal and that should be the end of it,” he said.
The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid organization, estimates that 345 million people will face acute food insecurity this year.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “again militarizing food in the war it unleashed, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices and exacerbating humanitarian crises and a already serious food insecurity”.
The suspension had an immediate impact: a ship carrying 40,000 tonnes of grain bound for Ethiopia was unable to leave Ukraine on Sunday, said Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister.
More than 9 million tonnes of grain in 397 ships have safely left Ukrainian ports since the agreement was signed in July after much wrangling, lifting a Russian blockade in the Black Sea that kept Ukrainian cargo ships docked. The deal, which is up for renewal on November 19, has dented global food prices, which have fallen about 15% from their peak in March, according to the United Nations. Turkey and the UN, which brokered the deal, are trying to revive it.
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►Russia on Monday called for a UN Security Council meeting over the alleged attack on the Black Sea Fleet, said Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s first deputy representative to the UN
►Russian missiles killed at least five people and injured nine, according to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Russia is trying to seize the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, and several villages in the area have been bombed.
►Ukraine and Russia carried out another exchange of prisoners; each side recovered about 50 of its citizens. Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, said on Telegram that military surgeons are among those his country is recovering.
►Boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko, whose quest for the undisputed lightweight championship was cut short by military service in his native Ukraine due to war, won a unanimous decision over Jamaine Ortiz on Saturday in New York and remains on the right track lane for a title fight. In the meantime, Lomachenko will join the Ukrainian forces.
The Russians would have emptied the hospitals of Kherson
Russian troops moved sick and wounded comrades hospitals in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine and stripped the facilities of all medical equipment, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that the Russians were “dismantling the entire health system” in Kherson and other occupied areas.
“The occupiers decided to close medical institutions in cities, withdraw equipment, ambulances. Just everything,” Zelenskyy said. “They put pressure on the doctors who still remained in the occupied areas to move to the territory of Russia.”
Kherson is one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month before declaring martial law there. The others are Donetsk, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia.
Russia recruits convicts with diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C
Reports that Russia is enlisting mercenaries recruited from prisons have surfaced for weeks. It now seems that some of them are infected with serious diseases.
The UK Ministry of Defense cited an online post by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the reputed head of the private military company, the Wagner Group, appears to admit to recruiting convicted Russians with diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Both can be transmitted through blood, a much more likely scenario in times of war than in a normal setting.
With Russian troops in need of replenishment, the ministry said Wagner had lowered the standards he had in previous wars, in which he relied primarily on experienced professional soldiers.
“The admission of prisoners with serious medical conditions highlights an approach that now prioritizes numbers over experience or quality,” the ministry said on Sunday. in an intelligence update.
Contributor: The Associated Press