The United Nations Security Council has met to discuss Russia’s suspension of grain exports through the Black Sea in an attempt to prevent food shortages.
Russian and Ukrainian top diplomats exchanged barbs at the United Nations Headquarters on Monday, with the Ukrainian ambassador calling Moscow's decision to pull out of the grain export deal "blackmail".
Russia’s UN ambassador accused Ukraine of using the Black Sea shipping corridor to get grain to world markets “for military and sabotage purposes” against its fleet, warning it will not allow passage of vessels without its approval.
At the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by Russia, Vasily Nebenzya accused Ukraine of carrying out “massive aviation and sea strikes” on Russia’s Black Sea fleet and infrastructure in Sevastopol on 29 October.
According to him, this was done with help from the West, especially the UK, “under the cover of the humanitarian grain corridor”, which was established under the 22 July grain deal.
As a result, “the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian vessels participating in the Black Sea Initiative,” he said.
However, Ukraine has denied the claims and says Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain export deal is strategic.
"We are outraged but not surprised over the announcement by Russia to suspend its participation in the Black Sea Green Initiative," said Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN.
"This announcement did not come all of a sudden, as Russia has never given up aggravating the food crisis as a tool to pressure and blackmail the world."
Twelve ships transporting grain departed Ukrainian ports on Monday despite Russia’s announcement.
One vessel carried Ukrainian wheat to Ethiopia, where a severe drought is affecting millions of people.
The volume of grain transported was thrown into doubt.
While Ukraine has denied Saturday’s attack, saying that Russia mishandled its own weapons, Moscow still announced it was retaliating by halting its participation in the UN- and Turkey-brokered deal.
The US slammed Russia’s decision. “Russia is once again demonstrating its willingness to weaponise food," Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Deputy US ambassador to the UN, said.
"Its actions directly impact low and middle-income countries by raising global food prices and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises in global food security."
Turkey is determined to get the deal back on the table after it partially brokered the widely-anticipated deal back in July.
Turkish top diplomat at the UN Feridun Sinirlioglu said, "the Black Sea Grain Initiative must continue."
"The trust between nations with different development levels has been hard earned and can be easily lost unless we take proactive steps today."