Russia has said it is suspending its participation in the agreement to ensure the continuation of Ukrainian grain exports — vital for food supplies to poor countries — linking the decision to a drone attack on Russian ships in occupied Crimea on Saturday morning.
The defence ministry announced the move, and it was also reported by the state news agency TASS.
“Taking into account the terrorist act carried out by the Kyiv regime with the participation of British experts against ships of the Black Sea fleet and civilian vessels involved in the security of grain corridors, Russia suspends its participation in the implementation of the agreement on exports of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian defence ministry announced on Telegram.
The move comes a day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the deal that has seen more than nine million tons of grain exported from Ukraine and brought down global food prices.
Earlier on Saturday, the Russian military blamed Ukraine and Britain for what it called a massive drone attack on its Black Sea fleet in Russian-annexed Crimea. Moscow said “minor damage” was caused to one ship, and the vessels were involved in protecting convoys exporting Ukrainian grain.
The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, accused Russia of “blackmail” and “invented terror attacks” on its own territory — an apparent response to Russian accusations that Ukraine was behind the blasts.
An adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, Anton Gerashchenko, claimed in his Telegram channel that “careless handling of explosives” in occupied Crimea led to explosions aboard four warships belonging to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
The conflicting claims from Ukraine and Moscow could not immediately be reconciled.
Moscow points finger at London
Regarding the UK, the Russian defence ministry also blamed “British specialists based in Ochakov, Mykolaiv region” for preparing a “terrorist act” and training Ukrainian military personnel. It also said British navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, without providing any evidence.
Britain’s defence ministry said the Russian claims were false and designed to distract from Russian military failures in Ukraine.
“To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale,” it said on Twitter.
“This invented story, says more about arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the West.”
‘Most massive’ drone attack so far
The Russian-installed governor of the city of Sevastopol described a drone attack early on Saturday on Russian Black Sea fleet installations as the most “massive” of the conflict in Ukraine.
“The most massive attack by drones and remotely piloted surface vehicles on the waters of the Bay of Sevastopol in the history of the conflict took place last night,” Mikhail Razvojaev was quoted as saying by the TASS agency.
Earlier, Razvojaev said the Russian navy had repelled a drone attack, saying no facilities had been hit and the situation was under control. All the drones involved in the attack had been “shot down”, Razvojaev added on Telegram.
The port of Sevastopol was “temporarily” closed to ships and ferries after the attack, the city’s authorities said.
On Thursday, Razvojaev said the Balaklava thermal power plant had been targeted by a drone attack.
In April, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — the Moskva — was sunk by Ukrainian forces in a major blow to Moscow. Earlier this month, an explosion struck Russia’s bridge to Crimea, a symbol of Moscow’s annexation.
Russian claims of a new drone attack in Sevastopol come as Ukrainian forces have launched a counter-offensive to regain ground in the south of the country.
Both sides have exchanged rocket, mortar and artillery fire from trench lines north of the Russian-held city of Kherson, where one of the war’s most consequential battles is looming.
The Russian defence ministry said its forces had repelled attempted Ukrainian advances in the east and had destroyed a Ukrainian military factory near the town of Pavlograd.
Russia, which launched an offensive in Ukraine on 24 February, annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula in 2014.