The European Union on Sunday called on Russia to reverse its decision to withdraw from a U.N.-brokered grains deal so as not to undermine efforts to ease the global food crisis.
Ukraine said Moscow had planned its exit well in advance.
Moscow suspended its participation in the Black Sea deal on Saturday, effectively cutting off shipments from Ukraine, one of the world’s top grain exporters, in response to what it called a major Ukrainian drone strike on its fleet near the Russian-annexed port of Sevastopol in Crimea.
“Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the Black Sea agreement puts at risk the main export route for cereals and fertilizers, much needed to deal with the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine,” he said on Twitter the head of EU foreign policy, Josep Borrell. “The EU urges Russia to reverse its decision.”
U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday called the move “outrageous,” saying it would increase famine, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of weaponizing food.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington countered Sunday by saying the U.S. response was “outrageous” and making false claims about Moscow’s move.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine attacked the Black Sea Fleet near Sevastopol with 16 drones early Saturday, and that British navy “specialists” had helped coordinate what it called a terrorist attack.
Russia said it had repelled the attack, but that the attacked ships were involved in securing the grain corridor outside Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said Moscow used the explosions 220 kilometers (137 miles) from the grain corridor as a “false pretext” for a long-planned move.
“Russia has planned this well in advance,” Kuleba said on Twitter. “Russia made the decision to resume its hunger games a long time ago and now tries to justify it,” he said, without offering any proof.
Russia’s exit from the grains deal opens a new chapter in an eight-month-old war that began with Russia’s invasion in February but has recently been dominated by a Ukrainian counteroffensive and Russian drone and missile strikes that have destroyed more than 30 percent of Ukraine’s electricity generation capacity.
The grain deal had resumed shipments from Ukraine, allowing sales on world markets with the aim of reaching the pre-war level of 5 million metric tons exported from Ukraine each month.
More than 9 million tons of corn, wheat, sunflower, barley, rapeseed, and soybean have been exported under the 22 July agreement.