Putin reveals fresh threat to Istanbul grain deal
Ukraine apparently transported the explosives used in last week’s attack on the Crimean Bridge by sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists on Friday, citing a report by the Federal Security Service (FSB). If it is proven that carriers operating in the Black Sea under the Istanbul grain deal were involved, it would have dire consequences for the agreement, he warned.
Earlier this week, the FSB revealed that explosives disguised as a 22-ton shipment of plastic construction sheeting arrived at the Bulgarian Danube port of Ruse from Ukraine’s port of Odessa by sea. “It is not yet clear if grain carriers were involved,” Putin said at a press conference in the Kazakh capital of Astana.
If it turns out that humanitarian corridors [used] for grain shipments to the poorest nations… are used for terrorist attacks, it would put the very existence of these corridors in question.
The president admitted that Russia still does not have any solid evidence confirming that Ukraine may be using grain exports for such activities. However, he warned that the response would be swift and tough if this is the case. “There will be a simple answer: We will shut down [the grain export corridors] and there is an end to it,” Putin warned, adding that Moscow would look for rock-solid proof first.
The breakthrough deal to unlock exports of Ukrainian and Russian grain was reached in Istanbul in July with mediation by the UN and Türkiye. The two countries are among the world’s leading grain exporters, but trade had come to a halt due to the protracted conflict between the neighboring countries.
On Friday, Russia also warned that it may still quit the deal if obstacles to its own food and fertilizer exports are not removed. Moscow has been complaining for months that restrictions on its food and fertilizer exports linked to international sanctions have not been lifted, even after it granted passage to Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea.
The truck explosion on the Crimean Bridge killed at least four people and led to a partial collapse of the highway bridge section. Russia declared the attack a terrorist act and blamed the Ukrainian security services. The Russian security services also detained a total of eight suspects, including Russians, Armenians and Ukrainians, in connection with the attack.