BRUSSELS (Dispatches) – The
European Union on Sunday called on Russia to reverse its decision to pull out of a UN-brokered grain deal, a move that undermined efforts to ease a global food crisis.
Moscow suspended its participation in the Black Sea deal on Saturday, effectively cutting shipments from Ukraine, one of the world’s top grain exporters, in response to a major Ukrainian drone attack earlier in the day on its fleet near the port of Sevastopol in Russian-annexed Crimea.
“Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risk the main export route of much needed grain and fertilizers to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter.
“The EU urges Russia to (reverse) its decision.”
On Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden said the move would increase starvation, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponising food. On Sunday, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, snapped back, saying the U.S. response was “outrageous” and made false assertions about Moscow’s move.
The Russians said they took the decision after Ukrainian forces launched a “massive” drone attack on its Black Sea fleet.
“The Russian side suspends participation in the implementation of agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the country’s defense ministry said in a statement.
Russia’s defense ministry said the British navy’s “specialists” had helped coordinate the “terrorist” attack near Sevastopol using 16 drones in the early hours of Saturday.
The same “specialists” were involved in explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, it added.
The United Nations also called for the preservation of the agreement, however.
“It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would imperil the Black Sea Grain Initiative which is a critical humanitarian effort,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.
He said the UN chief’s office was in touch with Russian authorities over the issue.
The United States and its European allies have spearheaded worldwide sanctions against Russia, stopping business with Russian companies and cutting some Russian banks off the international banking system.
Since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24, it has become the world’s most-sanctioned country.