U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned Russia’s decision to suspend implementation of a UN-brokered grain export deal, accusing Moscow of weaponizing food.
The deal reached in late July allowed more than nine million tons of grain to be shipped from Ukraine, mainly to Africa and middle eastern countries, easing the impact on third world countries suffering from the war-induced global food crisis.
Russia has cited an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against Russian ships in the Black Sea as their reason for suspending cooperation with the deal, with the Russian Defense Ministry issuing a statement on Oct. 29.
“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,” the statement said.
Responding on Oct. 29, Blinken said in a statement: “In suspending this arrangement, Russia is again weaponizing food in the war it stated, directly impacting low and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity.”
Blinken added that the U.S. urges “the Government of Russia to resume its participation in the initiative, fully comply with the arrangement, and work to ensure that people around the world continue to be able to receive the benefits facilitated by the initiative.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky branded the Russian move “predictable” and accused Moscow of blockading grain ships.
“This is a transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine in Africa and Asia,” he said in his nightly video address on Oct. 29.
“From September to today, 176 vessels have already accumulated in the grain corridor, which cannot follow their route. Some grain carriers have been waiting for more than three weeks. This is an absolutely deliberate blockade by Russia… to return the threat of large-scale famine to Africa and Asia.”
“Russia is doing everything to ensure that millions of Africans [and] millions of residents of the Middle East and South Asia find themselves in conditions of artificial famine or at least a severe price crisis.”
Zelensky called on world leaders to take urgent action, saying that a “strong international response is needed now,” and imploring the UN and G20 to address the issue.
“Russian terror and blackmail must lose,” he added. “Humanity must win.”