Grain exports halted; Turkey, Russia in talks to resume grain deal
Turkey is conducting "telephone diplomacy" with Russia on the situation with the grain deal at all levels, but details are not disclosed, according to a source in Istanbul.
Ukraine's maritime grain exports were halted Sunday after Russia suspended its participation in a landmark agreement that allowed the vital shipments, blaming drone attacks on its fleet in the Black Sea.
In this context, “Telephone diplomacy” is on the Turkey-Russia agenda as the two discuss the grain deal situation at all levels, but a source in Istanbul told Sputnik that details have not been relayed.
This comes in light of the Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement that Russia was withdrawing its participation from the deal following Ukraine’s drone attack on vessels of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol on Saturday. Sevastopol in Russian Crimea has been a frequent target and is the headquarters for the Black Sea fleet and a logistical hub for operations in Ukraine.
The source described the situation as “complicated” after being asked if the “telephone diplomacy” call would be made public, adding, “In such difficult moments, details should not be disclosed. The process is underway."
The UN-brokered deal, signed by Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine on July 22, will be expiring on November 19. It established a humanitarian maritime corridor for ships transporting food and fertilizer from the Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
Russia accused Kiev of a "massive" drone attack on its Black Sea vessels, which Ukraine responded to by calling it a "false pretext", while US President Joe Biden called it "purely outrageous" and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Moscow was "weaponising food".
In a statement, the center coordinating the deal relayed that no traffic was planned for Sunday. "A joint agreement has not been reached at the JCC for the movement of inbound and outbound vessels on 30 October," adding, "There are more than ten vessels both outbound and inbound waiting to enter the corridor."
As a response, Ukraine and the UN stressed the agreement remain effective, as Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: "I call on all states to demand that Russia stop its hunger games and recommit to fulfilling its obligations."
We have warned of Russia’s plans to ruin the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Now Moscow uses a false pretext to block the grain corridor which ensures food security for millions of people. I call on all states to demand Russia to stop its hunger games and recommit to its obligations.— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) October 29, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Russian move "an absolutely transparent intention of Russia to return the threat of large-scale famine to Africa and Asia." In an address, he stated, "Just today, more than two million tons of food are in the sea. This means that access to food has actually worsened for more than seven million consumers."
UN Secretary-General Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, commented, "It is vital that all parties refrain from any action that would imperil the Black Sea Grain Initiative which is a critical humanitarian effort."
UK has a hand in exacerbating attacks
The Russian army announced on Saturday the destruction of nine aerial drones by its forces and seven maritime UAVs.
"In light of the terrorist act carried out by the Kiev 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 the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports," the Russian Defense Ministry said via Telegram.
Russia pointed fingers to UK "specialists" for aiding in the preparation and execution of the strike, in addition to having a hand in explosions that targeted the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month. The UK replied by rejecting the claims, stating that "the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale."
Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said Saturday's drone attack was the "most massive" the area had seen. Calling on people not to panic, city authorities "temporarily" closed the area to boats and ferries.
Maria Zakharova, Russia's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, spoke on Saturday to relay that the recent attacks by Ukraine will be raised and discussed at the upcoming UN Security Council session.
According to the United Nations Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Amir Abdulla, Russia notified him on Saturday of "its concerns about the safety of movements of merchant vessels" under the grain deal agreement, which Russia criticized by saying its own exports of grain were impacted due to Western sanctions.
On October 8, the bridge connecting Crimea to Russia, the Kerch Bridge, was attacked and blasted and Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed fingers to Ukraine as the culprit.
Following that, Kherson and roads to the city are being reinforced to prepare for a worst-case scenario of Ukrainian troops breaking through into the city.
"Kherson and its approaches are being reinforced in case of a breakthrough of Ukrainian troops. The first floors of buildings are being fortified everywhere, fortifications made of sandbags are being built to defend and repel attacks within the city," deputy head of the Kherson regional administration, Ekaterina Gubareva stated.
On a separate note, a new prisoner exchange with Kiev was declared concerning pro-Russian separatists, with 50 bound to return home from each side.