The Russian Defense Ministry says Moscow has suspended its implementation of a U.N.- brokered grain export deal that has allowed more than 9 million tons of grain to be exported from Ukraine, lowering global food prices.
The ministry cited as the reason for its exit an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet ships anchored off the coast of occupied Crimea, which Russia says took place early Saturday.
Russian government official Dmitry Polyanskiy said on Twitter, “After attempt of Ukranian [sic] drone attack against Russian military ships ensuring safe functioning of #graindeal, which according to Russian MoD’s (Ministry of Defense) data was carried out with UK support, Russia suspends participation in the deal. UN SG @antonioguterres will be shortly officially notified.”
Ukraine has denied the attack. The Russian declaration came one day after U.N. chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain deal.
In a comment Saturday, U.N. Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations is in touch with the Russian authorities on the matter.
“It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would imperil the Black Sea Grain Initiative which is a critical humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world,” Dujarric said.
Ukraine’s foreign minister accused Moscow of using a “false pretext” Saturday to suspend its participation in the Black Sea grain corridor.
Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter, “I call on all states to demand Russia to stop its hunger games and recommit to its obligations.”
The Russian Defense Ministry accused the British royal navy of blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month. Moscow did not provide any evidence to back up its claims that a leading NATO member had sabotaged critical Russian infrastructure that delivers much needed gas to Europe.
London denied the claims and responded Saturday, saying on Twitter, “To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale.”
Russia claims that “British specialists” from the same unit that took part in the planning, provision, and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on September 26 also directed Ukrainian drones against Russia ships in Crimea early Saturday.
“Today at 4:20 a.m., the Kyiv regime carried out a terrorist attack on ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian ships that were on the outer and inner roadsteads [protected bodies of water] of the Sevastopol base,” Igor Konashenkov, chief spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry said. He added that the air targets were destroyed by Russian forces.
Konashenkov asserted the Black Sea Fleet ships that were attacked were there to secure “the grain corridor” as part of the international initiative to export agricultural products from Ukrainian ports.
In a statement Friday, Swedish lead prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in reference to the damaged gas pipeline, “I’ve decided together with the security police to carry out a number of additional investigations at the scene of the crime.” Swedish armed forces are scouting the area around the two damaged Nord Stream pipelines with minesweepers.
Sweden and Denmark have both concluded that four leaks on Nord Stream 1 and 2 were caused by explosions, but they have not said who might be responsible. World leaders have called it an act of sabotage.
On other fronts, Russian authorities in the occupied territories of Ukraine are dismantling the regions’ health care systems, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address Friday.
“The occupiers have decided to close medical institutions in the cities, take away equipment, ambulances – just everything. … They put pressure on the doctors who still remained in the occupied areas for them to move to the territory of Russia,” the president said.
“Russia is turning the Kherson region into a zone without civilization, without elementary things available in most countries of the world,” said Zelenskyy. “Before the arrival of Russia, this region, like all other regions of Ukraine, was completely normal and safe, all social services for people were guaranteed there. … Life was guaranteed there.”
“And now Russia is trying to make the Kherson region literally an exclusion zone,” the president said. “The world must react to this.”
The Kherson region was also the focus of Britain’s Defense Ministry’s intelligence update Saturday. The report said that earlier in the week, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed governor of the Kherson region, claimed more than 70,000 people had left Kherson city.
The update said Saldo also claimed that “Russia had removed the remains of a well-known 18th century Russian statesman, Prince Grigory Potemkin, from his tomb in Kherson’s cathedral to east of the Dnipro.”
“In the Russian national identity,” the report said, “Potemkin is heavily associated with the Russian conquest of Ukrainian lands in the 18th century and highlights the weight Putin almost certainly places on perceived historical justification for the invasion.”
VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this story. Some information came from The Associated Press and Reuters.