Western anger grows after Russia decides to halt vital UN grain deal

Western anger grows after Russia decides to halt vital UN grain deal

Turkish diplomats on Sunday night appeared the West’s best hope for the revival of the UN-backed grain deal after Russia angered world leaders by pulling out.

On Saturday, the Kremlin announced it would suspend its participation in the Black Sea agreement - which has seen more than nine million tons of grain exported from Ukraine and brought down global food prices.

Turkey's defence minister Hulusi Akar is now reportedly in talks with counterparts in Moscow and Kyiv to try to revive the deal and has asked parties to avoid any "provocation" that could affect its continuation.

The Black Sea agreement was a rare example of Russia-Ukraine cooperation during the war when it was signed in July to run until November 19 - with UN chief Antonio Guterres urging its renewal. But Moscow suspended its participation in response to what it called a Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet on Saturday, an allegation Kyiv has denied.

Ukraine's infrastructure ministry reported Sunday that 218 ships involved in grain exports have been blocked — 22 loaded and stuck at ports, 95 loaded and departed from ports, and 101 awaiting inspections.

Joe Biden said this was a “really outrageous" act, joining other western leaders in decrying the actions of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his deputies.

The US president said: "There's no merit to what they're doing. The UN [United Nations] negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it."

British foreign secretary James Cleverly, added: “The UN Black Sea grain initiative is instrumental to global food security.

“Russia should allow grain exports to reach the world’s hungry.”

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky also expressed outrage at Russia's decision, adding: “Why is it that a handful of people somewhere in the Kremlin can decide whether there will be food on the tables of people in Egypt or Bangladesh?”

One of the blocked ships, carrying 40,000 tons of grain bound for Ethiopia under a UN aid programme, could not leave Ukraine on Sunday as a result of Russia's “blockage of the grain corridor,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine's minister of infrastructure, said on Twitter. He didn't specify which Ukrainian port the ship, the Ikraia Angel, was stuck in.

While still a member of NATO, an organisation Mr Putin is notoriously wary of, Turkey has remained closer than many states to the Kremlin throughout the Ukraine conflict.

A Turkish official told Bloomberg News that talks with Russia will “continue until tomorrow” and that there are “grounds for optimism” within the situation.

A statement from Mr Akar added that no more grain ships would leave Ukraine but those already waiting near Istanbul would be inspected on Sunday or Monday.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said that before Moscow discusses a renewal, “Russia needs to see the export of its grain and fertilisers in the world market, which has never happened since the beginning of the deal".

The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine agreed on Sunday to begin a movement plan for 16 vessels that are in Turkish waters from Monday.

In a statement, the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, where Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish and UN personnel are working, said the three delegations had also agreed for inspections to be provided on Monday to 40 outbound vessels.

JCC said the Russian delegation was informed of both plans