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Russia resumed its military blockade of Ukrainian ports on October 30, cutting off supplies of grain largely destined for low-income countries and rekindling fears of spiraling global food prices.

The United States immediately criticized Russia’s actions, accusing it of “weaponizing food” to gain leverage in its failed invasion of Ukraine.

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Russia announced a day earlier that it would suspend its participation in a UN-brokered deal that allowed Ukraine, one of the world’s breadbaskets, to export grain after accusing Kyiv of staging a drone attack on its Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine denied the charges.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on October 30 that he was “deeply concerned” by Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the July agreement, which helped reverse the price spike. food that threatened to put millions of people at risk of starvation.

Guterres said he would delay his departure for the Arab League summit in Algiers by a day to work to save the grain deal.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure reported on October 30 that 218 ships involved in grain exports are currently stuck – 22 loaded and stuck in ports, 95 loaded and left ports and 101 awaiting inspections.

Ukraine’s grain exports are a key source of income for the country, whose economy was decimated by Russia’s eight-month war. They are also an essential source of food for countries in Africa and Asia.

Earlier in the day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russia to resume its participation in the agreement, warning that it was “exacerbating” an already serious food crisis affecting largely poor countries.

“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. By suspending this arrangement, Russia is again weaponizing food. in the war it started,” he said. .

In a post on TwitterEuropean Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also urged Russia to reverse its decision.

The July agreement allowed Ukraine to resume exports of grain, other foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia, through a safe humanitarian maritime corridor from three of its Black Sea ports.

To implement the agreement, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN have set up a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) to inspect vessels to and from Ukraine traveling along the corridor. Turkey played a major role in the negotiation of the agreement.

Russia announced on October 30 that it was suspending its participation in the JCC, including the inspection of ships off Istanbul. Earlier today, Turkey said the JCC would continue to inspect vessels on October 30-31.

The JCC had inspected 11 shipments as of October 30 and more than 100 were awaiting customs clearance.

Analysts have warned for the past two months that Russian President Vladimir Putin would look for an excuse to pull out of the deal in order to pressure the West over its continued military aid to Ukraine.

Kyiv has used this military aid effectively, pushing back the Russians in the northeast, east and southeast since launching a counteroffensive in September.

“Given Ukraine’s successful counterattack, the fighting there is not going Russia’s way. Putin, who is used to dialogue from a position of strength, finds he has no not have so many means of pressure on the West at his disposal. Threatening to torpedo the grain agreement is one of the few options left to him,” wrote Aleksandra Prokopenko, an independent analyst, in a Note of September 16 published on the website of the Washington-based think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In a video address after Russia’s announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “a completely transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine for Africa and Asia.” . Zelenskiy called for Russia’s expulsion from the Group of 20 major world economies (G20).

US President Joe Biden called Moscow’s decision “purely outrageous”.

The July 22 grain deal was to last 120 days with an option to renew on November 19 “if no party objects”, the UN said on October 28.

Moscow has asked the UN Security Council to meet on October 31 to discuss the reported attack on its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol in the early hours of October 29.

The Russian Defense Ministry said drones were used in the attack and a Russian ship, a minesweeper, was damaged.

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said Kyiv would try to continue using the Black Sea maritime corridor for as long as possible.

Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev told Russian state television that Moscow was ready to “provide up to 500,000 tonnes of grain for free to the poorest countries over the next four months”.

With information from Reuters

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