Russia will suspend its participation in the United Nations-brokered grain export deal with Ukraine after drone attacks on the Crimean city of Sevastopol, the country’s defense ministry announced Saturday.
Moscow blames Kyiv for the attacks. CNN cannot independently verify Russia’s report.
A top Ukrainian official on Saturday accused Russia of inventing “fictitious terrorist attacks” on its own facilities in Crimea and also blamed Moscow of “blackmail.”
“Nuclear blackmail, energy blackmail, food blackmail,” Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said in a post on his Telegram account.
The Russian foreign ministry said the country has suspended its participation for an “indefinite period of time.”
“Taking into account the act of terrorism committed by the Kyiv regime with the participation of British experts on October 29 this year against the ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civil vessels involved in the security of the ‘grain corridor,’ the Russian side suspends its participation in the implementation of the agreements on the export of agricultural products from the Ukrainian ports,” the Russian defense ministry added in a statement.
The United Kingdom has denied Moscow’s claim that Britain helped Ukraine plan the Crimean drone attacks, saying Russia is “peddling false claims of an epic scale.”
In July, following months of negotiations, ministers from both Ukraine and Russia signed the agreement brokered by the UN and Turkey. Russia pledged to unblock ports on the Black Sea to allow the safe passage of grain and oilseeds – some of Ukraine’s most important exports.
The deal is set to expire next month, and Moscow officials have cast doubt on whether they will extend their participation.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that there was a “lot of work” to do before the agreement could be renewed. Putin has weighed in, too, saying Moscow would shut the export corridors if they are used to carry out “terrorist attacks.”
Despite that, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister voiced optimism about the deal earlier this month, saying “there is no doubt that the grain corridor will continue operating after Nov. 22,” when it is set to expire.
The World Food Programme estimated that tens of millions of people moved into a stage of acute hunger as a consequence of the Ukraine war, and Western officials have accused Russia of using food as a weapon during its invasion.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told CNN Saturday: “We’ve seen the reports from the Russian Federation regarding the suspension of their participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative following an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet. We are in touch with the Russian authorities on this matter.”