Russia will suspend its participation in a UN-brokered food export deal with Ukraine following a drone strike on the Crimean city of Sevastopol, the country’s defense ministry announced on Saturday.
Moscow blamed the attack on Kyiv. CNN was unable to independently verify the Russian report, and Ukraine has not acknowledged the incident.
“Considering the terrorist acts committed by the Kyiv regime on October 29 this year against ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels involved in the security of the ‘food corridor’, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, It is involved in the implementation of the agreement on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports.
Britain has denied Moscow’s claim that it helped Ukraine plan the Crimea drone attack, saying Russia was “selling false claims on a grand scale”.
Some background: In July, after months of negotiations, Ukrainian and Russian ministers signed an agreement brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. Russia has pledged to lift its blockade of Black Sea ports to allow the safe passage of grain and oilseeds – one of Ukraine’s most important exports.
The agreement expires next month, and Moscow officials have expressed doubts about whether they will extend their participation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that there was “a lot of work” to be done before the agreement was renewed. Putin also said Moscow would close the exit corridors if they were used for “terrorist attacks”.
Still, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister expressed optimism about the deal earlier this month, saying “there is no doubt that the grain corridor will continue to operate beyond Nov. 22,” when it was set to expire.
The World Food Program estimates that tens of millions of people have gone into extreme starvation as a result of the war in Ukraine, and Western officials have accused Russia of using food as a weapon during the invasion.