Western countries criticize Russia’s decision to withdraw from Black Sea grain deal

The United States and the EU have criticized Russia’s decision to end the wartime agreement that has unblocked the passage of millions of tons of grain through southern Ukraine, traders and security experts food claiming that Moscow’s decision would fuel a further spike in prices and increase hunger levels. among the poorest countries.

Washington called Moscow’s suspension of its participation in the UN-backed Kyiv deal on Saturday an “outrageous” move that risked fueling famine. Moscow linked its decision to an attack earlier in the day on ships in the port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine called it a “false pretext” .

“The United States regrets Russia’s suspension of its participation in operations of the UN-brokered Black Sea Grains Initiative. We urge all parties to keep this vital, life-saving initiative running,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

He said the deal had enabled the export of 9 million tonnes of food products, bringing down world prices which soared after The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, called on Russia to reconsider its decision to pull out of the deal, saying it “jeopardizes the main export route for cereals and fertilizers which are essential for deal with the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine”.

Arif Husain, chief economist at the United Nations World Food Programme, warned that the decision would affect many countries. “It would be bad in good times, but in the current state of the world, it’s something that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. It’s not about one country but dozens of countries,” he said. he declared.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that “by suspending its participation in the grain agreement under the false pretext of explosions 220 km from the grain corridor, Russia is blocking 2 million tons of grain on 176 ships already at sea – enough to feed more than 7 million people”.

The Kremlin’s announcement surprised grain traders and analysts, who, while doubtful the deal would be extended beyond its mid-November deadline, did not expect a sudden termination.

“We will see a substantial spike in prices“when the market opens,” said Andrey Sizov, managing director of Black Sea grain consultancy SovEcon, adding that Russia’s move was its “worst-case scenario.”

Moscow defended its actions on Sunday, with Russia’s ambassador to the United States saying the “truly outrageous” decision was Washington’s failure to criticize the Sevastopol attack.

The attack, which appears to have targeted Russian warships, comes eight months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Black Sea deal, debated this summer in Istanbul, saw Moscow guarantee safe passage for cargo ships carrying grain from southern Ukrainian ports that had previously been blocked by war.

On Sunday, specialist outlet Fastmarkets Agricensus reported “panic” at these ports as international ships already docked and loading feared they could be trapped now that Moscow had suspended the safe passage corridor.

The Ukrainian president called for a “strong international response” from the UN and the G20.

“Russia is doing everything to ensure that millions of Africans, millions of inhabitants of the Middle East and South Asia find themselves in conditions of artificial famine or at least a serious price crisis”, Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly video address.

Russia denies that its attack on Ukraine, a major global exporter of grain and other food products, has raised prices or exacerbated food shortages. Moscow said on Saturday it was ready to supply 500,000 tonnes of grain directly to poor countries in the near future, Tass news agency reported, citing the Agriculture Ministry.

This was seen by some as an attempt by Moscow to preserve strained relations with southern countries whose food supplies have been deeply affected by the fallout from Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has in recent weeks expressed displeasure with the deal, saying it did not benefit “poorer countries”.

However, the UN presented the agreement not as intended to send cereals directly to the poorest countries, but as an agreement which made cereals more accessible to all by lowering market prices.

Putin’s growing disapproval has also coincided with a series of military defeats for his forces, and the suspension of the deal comes as a counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region gathers pace.

“Why is Moscow messing up the grain deal now? The answer is: Putin needs leverage as things go wrong for him on the battlefields in Ukraine, so the threat of a crisis world food must be put back into the Russian toolbox of coercion and blackmail,” wrote Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie International Peace Endowment.

But he also warned the strategy could backfire: “Cancelling the grain deal will create divisions between Russia and powerful players like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.”

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