Grain ships leave Ukrainian ports despite Putin suspending deal

Grain ships leave Ukrainian ports despite Putin suspending deal

More ships left Ukrainian ports on Tuesday despite Vladimir Putin pulling out of a deal on safe passage for grain exports through the Black Sea.

United Nations officials said at least three more ships sailed out of Ukrainian ports this morning, with 12 have done so yesterday, despite Moscow’s move.

The ships’ departures today were agreed by the Ukrainian, Turkish and UN delegations at an Istanbul-based centre and the Russian delegation had been informed.

Amir Abdulla, the UN coordinator for the grain initiative, was continuing talks to try to get Russia to fully re-engage in the programme.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said his country would continue implementing the programme, brokered by the UN and Turkey in July and aimed at easing global hunger.

“We understand what we offer the world. We offer stability on the food production market,” he said.

Earlier, he accused the Kremlin of “blackmailing the world with hunger,” an allegation rejected by Russia.

Moscow announced it was suspending its role in the grain programme after accusing Ukraine of using air and maritime drones to target Russian military vessels in the Bay of Sevastopol, off annexed Crimea.

“Ukraine must guarantee that there will be no threats to civilian vessels or to Russian supply vessels,” Mr Putin said yesterday, noting that under the terms of the grain deal Russia is responsible for ensuring security.

Insurance experts warned that grain exports could be hit in coming days and weeks as shipping companies will struggle to get cover for their vessels given the increased threat.

The US State Department said on Monday that food prices rose because of uncertainty around the Black Sea grain deal and that Russia’s suspension of its participation was having “immediate, harmful” impacts on global food security.

Global wheat prices jumped by more than five per cent yesterday morning.

The resumed flow of grain exports from Ukrainian ports has raised hopes that a new world food crisis had been averted for now.

Ukraine and Russia are both among the world’s largest exporters of food.

For three months, the UN-backed deal has guaranteed Ukrainian exports can reach markets, lifting a Russian de facto blockade.

The ships that sailed yesterday included one hired by the UN World Food Programme to bring 40,000 tonnes of grain to drought-hit Africa.

Meanwhile, Russia fired four missiles into the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv overnight, demolishing half an apartment building and killing one resident, a day after it unleashed a barrage of missiles on several cities including the capital Kyiv.

Mr Putin said the missile strikes on several Ukrainian cities which targeted infrastructure and a decision to freeze participation in a Black Sea grain export programme were responses to a drone attack on Moscow’s fleet in Crimea that he blamed on Ukraine.

He claimed Ukrainian drones had used the same marine corridors that grain ships transited under the UN-brokered deal.

Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack and denies using the grain programme’s security corridor for military purposes. The United Nations said no grain ships were using the Black Sea route on Saturday when Russia said its vessels in Crimea were attacked.

For the past three weeks, Russia has attacked civil infrastructure using expensive long-range missiles and cheap Iranian-made “suicide drones” after suffering a series of military setbacks in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives in the southern Kherson province and the north east of the country.