UN Rejects Russian Claims That Crimea Attack Violated Grain Deal; Says Shipments Will Continue

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A cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain is inspected in Turkish waters on Monday under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. (Photo by Ozan Kose / AFP via Getty Images)A cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain is inspected in Turkish waters on Monday under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. (Photo by Ozan Kose / AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The implications of Russia’s suspension of participation in an agreement to provide safe transit for Ukrainian grain exports remained unclear on Monday, although wheat prices did rise significantly, adding to concerns about global food shortages.

Following a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York, U.N. emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths told reporters there was a critical distinction between a Russian “suspension” and a Russian “termination.” Since Russia has only suspended participation, it was the U.N.’s assessment that Moscow’s obligations under the deal remain in place.

And that meant, Griffiths said, that the commitment contained within the agreement not to attack ships or relevant port facilities remains in force.

“We’re not asking for [Russia’s] permission,” he said. “We are continuing to implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”

Concerns how Moscow may react to ongoing ship movements were fueled by a Russian defense ministry statement saying that “the movement of ships along the security corridor is unacceptable, since the Ukrainian leadership and the command of the armed forces of Ukraine use it to conduct military operations against the Russian Federation.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said during the Security Council meeting that the grain agreement “is not to be implemented without us.”

Moscow earlier accused Ukraine of a drone and unmanned marine vehicle attack on warships in the port of Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea, and said that as a result “the Russian side suspends participation” in the grain initiative.
 

Griffiths said in the U.N.’s view there was “no substance” to Russia’s claim that the attack on Sevastopol breached the terms of the agreement. It had taken place at 4 AM on Saturday, before the shipping corridors used for the grain initiative were open, he said. Also, the ships targeted were “largely military vessels.”

The U.N. was urging the Russians to discuss the matter through the Joint Coordination Center set up in Istanbul to oversee the deal. Griffiths noted with concern that global wheat prices had climbed by almost six percent in response to Russia’s suspension announcement.

State Department spokesman Ned Price accused the Kremlin of trying to inflict “a form of collective global punishment,” referring to the importance of the initiative in getting Ukrainian grain to some of the world’s neediest countries.

“Any act by Russia to disrupt critical grain exports is essentially, would be essentially, a statement that the Kremlin doesn’t care if people and families around the world pay more for food or go hungry,” he told a briefing.

As for Russia’s linking the Sevastopol attack to its suspension decision, Price said that its justifications for its actions since the war began were in many cases “entirely devoid of facts, increasingly detached from reality.”

‘Maritime traffic jam’

The Turkish- and U.N.-brokered agreement reached over the summer was designed to free up food shipments in Ukrainian ports blocked by an effective Russian naval blockade.

Under the deal, empty cargo ships headed to Ukraine and laden vessels leaving it are inspected off Turkey’s coast by Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian, and U.N. officials.

The aim is to ensure that the laden food ships are carrying the manifested cargoes, and that the empty ones are not being used to carry weaponry bound for Ukraine’s armed forces fighting the Russian invasion.

Griffiths said that since the initiative took effect, some nine million tons of grain have left Ukraine, and of the wheat cargoes, 49 percent were shipped to low-income and low-middle income countries.

About 100 million “food insecure” people around the world were affected by the movement of Ukrainian grain, and the movement of Russian grain and fertilizer which is covered by a second part of the agreement, he said.

Summarizing the current situation, Griffiths said that as of Monday 86 laden vessels carrying nearly two million tons of grain were awaiting inspection off Turkey – in what he described as a “maritime traffic jam” – and another 12 ships loaded in Ukrainian ports were ready to leave. Five empty vessels, already inspected, were headed for Ukraine.

Acknowledging concerns voiced by insurance companies that underwrite the ships, he said the U.N. was seeking to reassure them that “we believe the parties are still bound by their commitments.”

Griffiths expressed optimism that the agreement, which only runs for 120 days, would be renewed before its November 19 expiry.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov voiced doubts about the viability of the ship movements in the absence of Russian cooperation.

“In conditions when Russia speaks about impossibility of guaranteeing safe shipping in indicated areas, such deal certainly can hardly be implemented,” he told reporters. “It acquires a different nature – much more risky, dangerous, and non-guaranteed.”

Kyiv said in response to Russian claims relating to the Sevastopol attack that Ukraine has continued to carry out its commitments under the grain initiative despite numerous and ongoing Russian missile strikes targeting its infrastructure, as well as other alleged Russian violations.

“The Ukrainian side did not stop the movement of goods through the ‘grain corridor,’ even despite Russian military attacks on the port and energy infrastructure,” Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

“Also, 15 cases of Russian UAVs and aircraft approaching the prohibited distance to civilian vessels participating in the Initiative were recorded,” it added.

 



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