The United States condemned Russia for pulling out of a United Nations-brokered deal to allow Ukraine to export grain after Moscow blamed Kyiv for orchestrating a drone attack against its Black Sea Fleet near Crimea.
The European Union called on Russia to reverse its decision and allow the grain shipments, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky characterized the move as a threat to cause “large-scale famine to Africa and Asia.”
“It’s really outrageous,” President Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. “There’s no merit to what they’re doing. The UN negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “weaponizing food” in the war it launched against Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“Any act by Russia to disrupt these critical grain exports is essentially a statement that people and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry,” Blinken said in a statement released Saturday by the State Department.
”In suspending this arrangement, Russia is again weaponizing food in the war it started, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity,” he said.
America’s top diplomat urged Russia to resume its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The agreement among the UN, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia to allow grain and fertilizer to be shipped from Ukrainian ports was inked in July in Istanbul and expected to be renewed in November.
Since then, more than 9 million tons of grain have left the ports, reducing global food prices by as much as 15% from their peak in March, the UN said.
Ukraine’s Zelensky pleaded with the West for a “strong international response.”
“Russia is doing everything to ensure that millions of Africans, millions of residents of the Middle East and South Asia find themselves in conditions of artificial famine or at least a severe price crisis,” he said in a video address on Saturday.
“Why can a handful of people somewhere in the Kremlin decide whether people in Egypt or Bangladesh will have food on their tables?” he said.
“This is a completely transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine for Africa, for Asia,” Zelensky said, adding that Russia should be booted from the G20.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Kremlin is using the attack on its ships near Sevastopol as a “false pretext” to ditch the initiative.
”Russia has planned this well in advance,” Kuleba said on Twitter. “Russia took the decision to resume its hunger games long ago and now tries to justify it.”
Josep Borrell, EU’s foreign affairs representative, urged Russia to return to the agreement.
“Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the Black Sea deal puts at risks the main export route of much needed grain and fertilizers to address the global food crisis caused by its war against Ukraine,” he said on Twitter.
Kuleba said Russia is blocking 2 million tons of grain on 176 ships – “enough to feed over 7 million people.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense said Saturday it was withdrawing from the initiative because it could not guarantee the safety of the cargo vessels after Ukraine carried out the attack near Crimea that Moscow has controlled since invading in 2014.
“In connection with the actions of Ukrainian armed forces … the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the Black Sea initiative, and suspends its implementation from today for an indefinite period,” a statement said.
Russia on Saturday also accused the British navy of blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines that carry natural gas to Europe last month.
London has denied the claim.
With Post wires