Russia closes Black Sea ‘grain corridor’
The Russian military has shut the so-called “grain corridor” used to ship Ukrainian agriculture products through the Black Sea. The move was provoked by the actions of Kiev, which has used the route to launch attacks, the Russian Defense Ministry explained, on Monday.
The announcement follows a Ukrainian drone offensive, in the early hours of Saturday morning, which damaged some Russian ships used to police the Black Sea. Moscow has blamed the UK for the incident, near Sevastopol, and said a British Navy unit masterminded operations from the port of Ochakov. London has dismissed the accusation.
“Any navigation through the security corridor designated under the Black Sea [grain shipment] initiative will be halted until the situation around the Ukrainian … terrorist attack on the military and civilian vessels in Sevastopol is cleared up,” the Russian Defense Ministry outlined in a statement.
Officials also said that Kiev had specifically committed not to use the corridor for military purposes. At the same time, it maintained that Russia is not withdrawing from the deal but only suspending it for an indefinite period of time.
Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was ready to compensate for the missing Ukrainian grain exports to the poorer nations from its own stocks. He also warned that the grain deal has become “much more risky, dangerous” now since Russia cannot guarantee maritime security in the waters of the designated grain corridor.
Russia is “still in contact” with other parties, including the UN and Türkiye, Peskov said, adding, however, that Moscow was not ready to be talked into resuming its participation in the deal.
A dozen ships carrying Ukrainian grain were cleared to leave Turkish ports earlier on Monday. The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul agreed on a plan to inspect a further 40 vessels, despite Moscow’s decision to suspend the deal. It is unclear whether it will follow up on its plan now.