Record wartime amount of grain leaves Ukraine despite Russian blockade threat | World News


Ukraine has shipped a wartime record volume of grain despite Russia withdrawing from an international deal and warning shipments without its consent would be “more risky” and “dangerous”.

Twelve vessels set off from Ukrainian ports on Monday carrying 354,500 tonnes of agricultural products, Odesa’s military administration said – including 40,000 tonnes of grain on the Ikaria Angel, a vessel headed for Ethiopia, where a severe drought is affecting millions of people.

It was the most moved in a single day since the Turkey and UN-brokered Black Sea grain export deal in July.

The large convoy of ships set sail two days after Moscow suspended its role in the deal in retaliation for an aerial and underwater drone attack on Russia‘s Sevastopol-based Black Sea fleet on the Russian-annexed Crimea Peninsula.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Ukrainian drones had travelled to their targets through an internationally agreed zone meant to ensure the safety of ships exporting grain from Ukraine’s ports.

The threat from such a trajectory endangered Russian ships patrolling the zone as well as the grain ships themselves, Mr Putin said, justifying his country’s suspension of its participation in the deal that enabled the exports.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Putin’s announcement threw the transport of grain into doubt, with the Kremlin warning on Monday that without Russian security commitments, the grain deal was “hardly feasible”.

Moscow said it was much more “risky, dangerous and unguaranteed”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “blackmailing the world with hunger” by pulling out of the agreement, while Turkey’s defence minister Hulusi Akar urged his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a phone call to “reconsider” the suspension.

The European Union also urged Moscow to reverse course.

“Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risk the main export route of much needed grain and fertilisers to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

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Despite the fallout, a spokesperson for Odesa’s military administration said the amount moved on Monday was just more than the previous record wartime amount – 345,000 tonnes shipped on 27 September.

“Today 12 ships left Ukrainian ports,” Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter on Monday.

“@UN & Turkish delegations provide 10 inspection teams to inspect 40 ships aiming to fulfil the #BlackSeaGrainInitiative. This inspection plan has been accepted by the Ukrainian delegation. The Russian delegation has been informed.”

By midday on Tuesday, three more outbound vessels had set sail from Ukrainian ports after agreement by the Ukrainian, Turkish and UN delegations at the Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Centre (JCC).

UN coordinator for the grain initiative, Amir Abdulla, was said to be continuing his discussions with all three member state parties in an effort to resume full participation.

The grain deal – set to expire on 19 November – ensured safe passage in and out of Odesa and two other Ukrainian ports, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne.

It followed a blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet which cut off supplies to grain and other food products around the world and sent global prices soaring.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain producers and the three-month-old programme averted a global food crisis.

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