Crimean bridge explosions disrupt key link to Russia: live updates

Crimean bridge explosions disrupt key link to Russia: live updates
Barley harvest in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine, last year.credit…Laetitia Fancon for The New York Times

Russia said on Monday it had temporarily halted its participation in a deal that allowed Ukraine to export its grain by sea despite a wartime blockade, reversing an agreement seen as necessary to keep global food prices stable.

The announcement seemed like the biggest jab yet to a year-old agreement that was a rare example of productive talks between warring nations, and helped mitigate part of the global fallout from Russia’s all-out invasion. Ukraine is a major producer of grain and other foodstuffs, and the United Nations has warned that some countries in the Middle East and Africa face famine if Kiev cannot export its goods across the Black Sea.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov told reporters on Monday that the agreement was “on hold,” but added that the decision was not linked to the attack hours earlier on the Kerch Strait bridge linking Russia to occupied Crimea. Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the attack on the bridge, but Kiev did not take responsibility.

Speaking of the grain agreement, Mr. Peskov said: “As soon as the Russian part is fulfilled, the Russian side will immediately go back to the implementation of that deal.”

Russia has repeatedly complained about the agreement, which it considers unilateral in favor of Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued on Monday statement He reiterated his objections, including what he described as persistent “Ukrainian provocations and attacks against Russian civilian and military facilities” in the Black Sea region, and said the United Nations and Ukraine’s Western allies had not responded to Russian demands.

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“Only upon receiving tangible results, not promises and assurances, will Russia be ready to consider restoring the agreement,” the statement said.

The deal, known as Black Sea Grain Initiative Mediation by the United Nations and Turkey, was due to end on Monday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the agreement, and he hoped he would agree to join it.

“Despite today’s statement, I believe that the President of the Russian Federation, my friend Putin, wants this humanitarian bridge to continue,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

Last week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, sent a letter containing proposals to Mr. Putin in an attempt to meet Russia’s conditions for extending the agreement. Negotiators from the United Nations and the Turks spent the weekend waiting for a response from Moscow as the clock drew nearer. Grain exports from Ukraine’s ports dwindled to almost zero in the days before the deal ended.

The deal succeeded in relieving shortages caused by the blockade in the early months of the war, which sent up global wheat prices. Ukraine was allowed to resume the export of millions of tons of grain, which had been weak for months, and was renewed several times, Most recently in May.

But Moscow argued that although the deal benefited Ukraine, Western sanctions restricted the sale of Russian agricultural products. In an effort to meet Russia’s demands, Mr. Guterres sent Mr. Putin proposals that he said would “remove obstacles affecting financial transactions” through Russia’s Agricultural Bank while allowing Ukrainian grain shipments to continue.

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In addition to hoping for smoother financial transactions, Russia has He sought guarantees That would facilitate the export of its own grain and fertilizers, and the reopening of the ammonia pipeline that crosses Ukraine.

Ukraine has exported 32.8 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs since the initiative began, according to UN data. Under the agreement, the ships are allowed passage by Russian naval vessels that have effectively closed off Ukraine’s ports since the start of Russia’s all-out invasion in February 2022. The ships are being checked off the coast of Istanbul, in part to ensure they are not. Carrying a weapon.

Last year, Russia suspended its participation in the inspections that were part of the agreement, then rejoined within days.

Shafak Timur Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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