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Zelensky Accuses Russia of Deliberately Slowing Grain Shipments


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of deliberately slowing grain exports to trigger a food crisis, undermining an agreement the United Nations signed earlier this year to free millions of tonnes of trapped food. stuck in Ukrainian ports due to war.

Zelensky, in his nightly address to the nation on Friday, said there are 150 ships pending the completion of contracts to transport wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other products from Ukraine.

“This is an artificial queue,” he said. “It only arose because Russia was deliberately delaying the passage of ships.” He said the slowdown has resulted in Ukraine exporting less than three million tons of its agricultural products.

“The enemy is doing everything to slow down our food exports,” he said. “I believe that with these actions, Russia is deliberately inciting the food crisis so that the food crisis becomes as severe as it was in the first half of this year.”

There was no immediate public response from the Kremlin to Mr. Zelensky’s allegations.

Ismini Palla, a spokeswoman for the United Nations organization that oversees the deal, known as the Black Sea Grains Initiative, confirmed that 150 ships are “waiting for movement”, a delay which she claims has ” potential disruption” in the flow of goods.

She declined to comment on what had caused the delay. She said the Joint Coordination Center – a group of officials from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations that oversees the ships – “has acknowledged the problem and is trying to clear the backlog.”

The agreement to allow Ukraine’s grain exports to continue through the Black Sea was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey with Russia and Ukraine in July. The deal must be renegotiated next month, and its future is uncertain.

Under the agreement, Ukrainian pilots guided the ships through Ukrainian minefields around the ports, and were then authorized by the Russian Navy to move safely to Turkey, where the relevant crews of all The parties will inspect them before they arrive at the port of shipment. Returning ships are also inspected for weapons.

United Nations officials have called the deal a success. Secretary-General António Guterres credited these shipments with helping to reduce world food prices and avert the global hunger crisis.

As of October 19, nearly 8.8 million tons of grains and other foodstuffs had been exported under the agreement, according to a report. Released on Thursday of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Almost 20% of wheat exports have gone to developing countries, the report said, although this is down by about 1.3 million tonnes from 2021.

The report says that Ukraine’s shipments are still about half their pre-war levels. It added that global food prices have fallen since the agreement was signed, but prices of several commodities, including wheat and corn, have started to rise again due to the uncertainty of the price increase. agreement term.

Russia and Ukraine have yet to agree on an extension of the agreement, which expires at the end of November.

Ukraine has said it wants the deal to be extended, but Russia earlier this week threatens to block its extension unless promises from the West to facilitate shipments of more Russian food and fertilizers are honored.

As part of the agreement, the United States and the European Union gave the guarantee that banks and companies involved in the Russian grain and fertilizer business will be exempt from economic sanctions against Russia.

“The situation around the grain export initiative is becoming more and more tense these weeks,” Mr. Zelensky said.

Carly Olson contribution report.

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