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Tuesday, 01 November 2022 – President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is suspending but not ending its participation in a deal that allows safe passage of vessels carrying Ukrainian grain exports out of the Black Sea.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, its navy imposed a blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, trapping about 20 million tonnes of grain meant for export inside the country, along with other foodstuffs such as maize and sunflower oil.

But in July, a deal between Ukraine and Russia was brokered by Turkey and the UN, agreeing to resume grain exports through the Black Sea ports.

President Putin has now said the deal was being suspended, citing the “massive” drone attack on its fleet in Crimea that he alleged Kyiv was responsible for.

He said maritime safety must be ensured and that implementing grain exports under such conditions were too risky.

“Ukraine must guarantee that there will be no threats to civilian vessels,” Mr Putin said in a televised address.

Kyiv has not admitted responsibility for the attack, saying Moscow had long planned to abandoned the internationally-brokered deal and used the attack as a pretext to do so.

Despite the disagreement, 12 ships containing 354,500 tons of food, including grain, left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Monday, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said. This constituted a record volume of exports since the grain deal began, said a spokesperson for Odesa’s military administration quoted by Reuters.

One of the vessels carrying 40,000 tons of grain was destined for Ethiopia, where “the real possibility of mass starvation” existed, the infrastructure ministry added.

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