Biden warned that global hunger could deepen as a natural outcome of a Russian suspension of a U.N.-brokered deal to enable ships delivering grain from Ukraine, one of the world’s breadbaskets.
Russian Blockade: A Global Food Crisis?
Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports continued on Sunday, blocking the delivery of much-needed grain to parts of the world where people are starving. US President Joe Biden termed this a “really outrageous” act.
“It’s really outrageous,” Biden remarked Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware. “What they’re doing has no merit.” The United Nations negotiated the deal, and he believes that’s the end of it.
Russia said it would pull out of the grain deal immediately, claiming that Ukraine launched a drone strike on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet off the coast of seized Crimea on Saturday. Ukraine has denied the strike, claiming that Russia mishandled its weaponry.
Sunday, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said that 218 grain-exporting ships had been stopped:
- 22 were full and stuck at ports.
- 95 were full and left ports.
- 101 were waiting for inspections.
One of the ships couldn’t leave Ukraine on Sunday because Russia “blocked the grain corridor,” Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, wrote on Twitter. The ship was carrying 40,000 tons of wheat for Ethiopia as part of a UN relief program. The Ikaria Angel got stuck at the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk.
The UN office in Istanbul that is in charge of tracking the ships said that the Ikaria Angel was one of six ships that started to leave but had yet to reach a humanitarian corridor. Monday, the center said that plans were being made to move and inspect other ships, but it needed to be clarified if Russia would do what was asked.
Since it was signed in July, the grain initiative has made it safe for more than 9 million tons of grain to leave Ukrainian ports on 397 ships. On Friday, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, urged Russia and Ukraine to keep the deal, which runs out on November 19. The United Nations says that the grain pact has cut food prices globally by 15% since March when they were at their highest.
Russia’s move upset the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. In his nightly video message on Sunday, the Ikaria Angel said that the bulk ship carrying wheat for the UN food program and other vessels carrying agricultural supplies have to wait because Russia is using the threat of starvation to blackmail the world.
On Sunday, there were reports of two attempts to bring back the grain deal.
Russian Grain deal withdrawal strategic
His agency said that Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar talked with his colleagues about how to solve the problem and keep the grain project going. He also said that no more grain ships will leave Ukraine. Still, those waiting outside of Istanbul will be checked on Sunday or Monday.
Guterres put off a one-day trip to the United Nations in New York to participate in talks to get Russia to stop the grain export deal. Russia has also suggested that the issue be looked at at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday.
Analysts say that Russia’s decision to leave shows that Moscow sees the grain deal as a way to put more pressure on Ukraine.
Mario Bikarski, an expert at the Economist Intelligence Unit, says that Ukrainian attacks near the Black Sea will stop if the deal is canceled and Ukraine is blamed. He said Russia might hope that Ukraine’s Western allies will ask it to move its soldiers elsewhere to keep the grain deal in place.
More conflicting information about the alleged attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet came to light on Sunday.
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The city council of Mariupol, a Ukrainian port now under Russian control, said on Telegram that Ukrainian special forces had damaged at least three Russian warships near the city of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has taken over.
But an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said that explosions on four Russian warships were caused by the Russians’ “careless handling of explosives.” Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram that the ships were a frigate, a landing ship, and a ship with cruise missiles.
There have been rumors for months that the Ukrainians have been sabotaging Russian jets and weapons stores in Crimea. Zelensky has repeatedly said he will get back the important Black Sea peninsula Russia took in 2014.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that a Ukrainian drone that hit Sevastopol seemed to have been launched from a civilian ship carrying Ukrainian agricultural goods. The ministry said that a look at the wreckage showed that the drones used navigation systems made in Canada and took off from the Ukrainian coast near the port of Odesa.
It hasn’t proved easy to verify either side’s claims independently.
The raging war
Ukraine seems to have been attacking Crimea’s Black Sea Fleet and other Russian military equipment since the spring. Crimea is far from the front lines, but it is a pivotal place from which to launch attacks against Ukraine.
Russia’s missile attacks kept hitting critical hotspots on the front lines in Ukraine. According to the office of the president of Ukraine, Russian troops have shelled seven Ukrainian districts in the last 24 hours, killing at least five civilians and hurting nine more.
In the eastern Donetsk region, shells hit eight cities and villages, and fighting is still happening near the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, says that people in parts of Ukraine who have been taken back are still picking up the bodies of civilians killed. In the last 24 hours, we found the bodies of Ukrainians who had been left behind in three de-occupied towns and villages.
Sunday, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said that Russian soldiers are mining the land they leave behind twice as much as they did in the early months of the war.
On Sunday, there were power outages in the occupied Ukrainian city of Enerhodar, which is home to the Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Both Ukrainian and Russian officials said that the shelling that caused the blackout was their fault.