Global hunger could rise after Russia suspends grain deal

Russia At War

FILE – Russian Black Sea fleet ships are anchored in one of the bays of Sevastopol, Crimea, March 31, 2014. On Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022 at least two Russian ships suffered damage in a major port in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. The Russian Defense Ministry said two ships received “minor damage” during an alleged Ukrainian drone attack on navy and civilian vessels docked in Sevastopol at 4:20 a.m. The ministry said 16 drones were used in the attack and that Russian forces had “repelled” them. (AP Photo, File)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden warned that global hunger could increase because of Russia’s suspension of a U.N.-brokered deal to allow safe passage for ships carrying Ukrainian grain.

“It’s really outrageous,” said Biden speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday. “There’s no merit to what they’re doing. The U.N. negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it.”

Biden spoke hours after Russia announced it would immediately halt participation in the agreement, alleging that Ukraine staged a drone attack Saturday against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet ships off the coast of occupied Crimea. Ukraine has denied the attack.

The grain initiative has allowed more than 9 million tons of grain in 397 ships to safely leave Ukrainian ports since it was signed in July. It was to be renewed in late November. The grain agreement has succeeded in bringing down global food prices, which have fallen by approximately 15% from their peak in March, according to the United Nations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the decision predictable and said Russia has been deliberately aggravating the food crisis since September. Currently, some 176 ships loaded with grain are prevented from sailing from Ukraine’s ports, he said.

“This is food for more than 7 million consumers. … Why is it that some handful of people somewhere in the Kremlin can decide whether there will be food on the tables of people in Egypt or Bangladesh?” he said in his nightly address to the nation Saturday.

Russia’s action is facing international condemnation. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Russia to reverse its decision, in a tweet Sunday. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary general, said the world body is in touch with Russian authorities and it is vital all parties refrain from any action that would impede the grain initiative.

Russia had been setting conditions to withdraw from the deal for some time, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank said. Even if Ukraine did order the attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, it would have been proportionate to Russia’s bombing campaign on Ukrainian civilian targets and infrastructure in recent weeks, it added.

Earlier this month, Moscow intensified its missile and drone strikes on Ukraine’s power stations, waterworks and other key infrastructure, damaging 40% of Ukraine’s electric system and forcing the government to implement rolling blackouts.

Russian attacks are continuing across the country.

In the past 24 hours, Russian missiles have killed at least five people and wounded nine, according to a statement from the office of the president. In fierce fighting in Ukraine’s east, Russia is trying to capture the city of Bakhmut and several centers and villages in the area have been shelled.

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