Three more vessels left Ukrainian ports on Tuesday, the UN-led centre co-ordinating the Black Sea grain export deal says, despite a Russian decision to suspend its backing of the scheme.
The centre says the ships’ movement has been agreed by Ukraine, Turkey and the UN, while Russia “has been informed”.
On Monday, 12 ships carrying 354,500 tonnes of food sailed from Ukraine.
Russia halted its backing for the deal on Saturday, accusing Ukraine of using a safety corridor to attack its fleet.
The UN says there were no ships inside the corridor that night.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack in Crimea – Ukraine’s southern peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “blackmailing the world with hunger” – a claim Russia denies.
The Istanbul-based co-ordinating centre is yet to provide details about the cargo on board the three vessels that left Ukraine on Tuesday.
Russia has not publicly commented on the issue.
Monday’s cargoes constituted a record daily volume of exports since the grain deal began, said a spokesperson for Odesa’s military administration quoted by Reuters.
One of the vessels carrying 40,000 tonnes of grain was destined for Ethiopia, where “the real possibility of mass starvation” existed, the ministry added.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, its navy imposed a blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, trapping about 20 million tonnes of grain meant for export inside the country, along with other foodstuffs such as maize and sunflower oil.
But in July a deal between Ukraine and Russia was brokered by Turkey and the UN, facilitating a resumption of grain exports through the Black Sea ports.
On Monday, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the deal was being suspended, citing the “massive” drone attack on its fleet in the port of Sevastopol that he alleged Kyiv was responsible for.
He claimed that in order to implement grain exports, maritime safety must be guaranteed and that doing so would be too risky.
Mr. Putin said in a televised address that “Ukraine must ensure that there will be no threats to civilian vessels.”
Kiev has refused to claim responsibility for the attack, claiming Moscow had long planned to renege on the deal that had been mediated internationally and used the attack as justification for doing so.
Such a deal is hardly feasible and assumes a different character that is much more risky, dangerous, and unguaranteed when Russia talks about how it is impossible to guarantee the safety of shipping in these areas, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The US has denounced Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement, accusing Moscow of “weaponizing food.”
Josep Borrell, the head of foreign policy for the EU, has pleaded with Russia to change its mind, arguing that jeopardizing the export of grains and fertilizers would worsen the world food crisis.
Russian ambassador to the US rejects claims that his nation is worsening the world food crisis, claiming that such accusations are unfair.
The suspension comes as Russia, which had earlier claimed that its evacuations of the occupied Kherson region had ended, now claims to have expanded them.
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