Russia Halts Ukraine Grain Deal


Russia said Monday it has halted its participation in a nearly year-old agreement that facilitated grain exports from three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.

The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative amid a global food crisis, seeking to facilitate the exports blocked by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ahead of the deal’s expiration on Monday, Russia had said it was not benefitting enough under the initiative.

A parallel memorandum of understanding between Moscow and the United Nations has sought to remove obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer. While food and fertilizer are not sanctioned by the West, efforts have been made to ease concerns of anxious banks, insurers, shippers and other private sector actors about doing business with Russia.

One of Russia’s main demands has been for its agriculture bank to be reinstated in the Swift system of financial transactions.

“Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements concerning Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “As soon as the Russian part of the agreements is fulfilled, the Russian side will return to the implementation of this deal, immediately.”

The U.N. said that since the exports began in August 2022, 32.9 metric tons of food commodities were exported to 45 countries. Experts said not renewing the deal would cause food prices to spike.

The last ship to depart Ukraine under the deal left a Ukrainian port on Sunday.

Crimea bridge

Russia said a Ukrainian attack Monday on a bridge linking Russia’s Krasnodar region to the Crimean Peninsula killed a civilian couple and their child, while damaging the bridge’s road decking and halting traffic.

Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee attributed the attack to two Ukrainian sea drones.

The bridge serves as a key link to supply Russian forces in their invasion of Ukraine.

Russian authorities said the attack damaged a section of the bridge closer to Crimea, the region Russia annexed in 2014 in a move not recognized by the international community. There was no damage to the bridge’s piers, Russia said.

The bridge was previously damaged in an October explosion that Russia also blamed on Ukraine.

Ukrainian Security Service spokesman Artem Degtyarenko said in a statement that details of the incident would be revealed after Ukraine wins the war.

“In the meantime, we are watching with interest how one of the symbols of the Putin regime once again failed to withstand the military load,” Degtyarenko said.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also alluded to the attack in a tweet Monday, saying: “Any illegal structures used to deliver Russian instruments of mass murder are necessarily short-lived… regardless of the reasons for the destruction.”

Ukrainian gains

A Ukrainian defense official said Monday the country’s military had retaken 18 square kilometers of territory during the past week, and 210 square kilometers from Russian forces since launching a counteroffensive last month.

The gains included 7 square kilometers in the Bakhmut area, in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have occupied the city of Bakhmut since May.

In southern Ukraine, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian fighters had retaken 11 square kilometers as they advance toward the cities of Berdyansk and Melitopol.

Maliar also said Russian forces have advanced toward Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine.__VOA News