Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that Moscow would suspend its implementation of a UN-brokered grain export deal that allowed for more than 9 million tons of grain to be exported from Ukraine.
The move comes after Russian naval forces repelled a drone attack in the Bay of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is headquartered, the Russian-installed leader of the area said on Saturday. Sevastopol is located on the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Moscow blamed the attack for its decision, which came a day after UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the deal.
“Taking into account … the terrorist act by the Kyiv regime with the participation of British experts against the ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian vessels involved in ensuring the security of the grain corridor, the Russian side suspends participation in the implementation of agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the ministry said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden slammed the move as “purely outrageous.”
“There’s no merit to what they’re doing. The UN negotiated that deal and that should be the end of it,” Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware.
The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff accused Russia of “blackmail” and said it had “invented terror attacks” on its own territory following explosions on the occupied peninsula of Crimea.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said the suspension “proves once again that negotiations with the Russian Federation are a waste of time.”
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has turned food, the cold and prices into weapons against the world … Russia is waging a hybrid war against Europe, taking Africa and the Middle East hostage,” Podolyak tweeted.
Describing the drone attack, the governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, said it was the “most massive” on the peninsula since the invasion began in February.
“Today at night, the most massive attack by UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and remote-controlled surface vehicles in the waters of the Sevastopol bay was undertaken,” he said.
According to Russian reports, one warship was damaged.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it would raise a drone attack in Crimea and the Nord Stream pipeline blasts, both incidents in which Moscow has alleged British involvement, at the UN Security Council.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Its forces attacked Ukraine from several directions in February this year, including from Crimea.
Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Saturday, October 29:
Ukraine and Russia exchange prisoners
Ukrainian officials said 50 Ukrainian soldiers and two civilians returned home as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.
Among them were defenders of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol and a soldier from Snake Island, as well as two military doctors, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram.
Simultaneously, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the return of 50 Russian soldiers from Ukrainian captivity.
Russia says drone attack jeopardized grain exports
Russia has claimed that some of its ships that were targeted by a drone attack on the Sevastopol port in Crimea were part of the UN-brokered grain export deal, which is set to expire next month.
It said the ships weren’t cargo ships but were involved in securing the shipping corridor that allowed grain to safely be exported from Ukraine.
“It should be emphasized that the ships of the Black Sea Fleet that were attacked by terrorists are involved in ensuring the security of the ‘grain corridor’ as part of an international initiative to export agricultural products from Ukrainian ports,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
Russian journalist killed in Crimea shooting range accident
A veteran Russian state media journalist has been killed in an accident on a shooting range in Moscow-annexed Crimea, Russia’s Rossiya Segodnya state media group said.
Svetlana Babayeva “died due to an accident” while practicing shooting on Friday, Russian agencies quoted the media outlet as saying.
Babayeva was the head of the Crimea bureau for the Kremlin-backed news outlet. Throughout her long career with pro-Kremlin media, the 50-year-old had also been posted to the United Kingdom and the United States.
Russia accuses UK of taking part in Nord Stream sabotage
Russia has accused the United Kingdom of blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipeline last month, but did not provide any evidence for this claim.
“According to available information, representatives of this unit of the British Navy took part in the planning, provision and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on September 26 this year — blowing up the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement on Saturday morning.
The defense ministry alleged the same British navy specialists also helped Ukraine stage a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
However, Britain denied Russian claims that British navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, calling them “false claims of an epic scale”.
“To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale,” a spokesperson for Britain’s ministry of defense said.
EU Commissioner expects war crimes trials this year
EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders believes the first war crimes trials linked to the war in Ukraine would start in the coming months.
Reynders told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper he was “reasonably sure” processes against Russian suspects would begin at the International Criminal Court before the end of 2022.
He also said that he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be indicted by an international court because of the war in Ukraine.
“If prosecutors want to start at the highest level, let them do it,” Reynders said.
EU: €17 billion in Russian assets frozen
The European Union has frozen more than €17 billion ($16.9 billion) in Russian assets in the course of the sanctions packages against Russia, according to EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.
“So far, the assets of 90 people have been frozen, over €17 billion in seven member states, including €2.2 billion in Germany,” the Belgian told the Funke media group of newspapers.
The EU has adopted eight sanctions packages since the Russian war against Ukraine began eight months ago. Ukrainian politicians in particular have repeatedly demanded that the frozen assets be used to rebuild the country after the war.
Russia says US lowers ‘nuclear threshold’
Russia said that the accelerated deployment of modernized US B61 tactical nuclear weapons at NATO bases in Europe would lower the “nuclear threshold” and that Russia would take the move into account in its military planning.
“We cannot ignore the plans to modernize nuclear weapons, those free-fall bombs that are in Europe,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told state RIA news agency.
The B61-12 gravity bombs carry lower-yield nuclear warheads than many earlier versions but are more accurate and can penetrate below ground, according to research by the Federation of American Scientists.
“The United States is modernizing them, increasing their accuracy and reducing the power of the nuclear charge, that is, they turn these weapons into ‘battlefield weapons’, thereby reducing the nuclear threshold,” Grushko said.
Russia has around 2,000 working tactical nuclear weapons while the United States has around 200 such weapons, half of which are at bases in Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands. Russia also has over 1,450 larger, strategic nuclear warheads at its disposal compared to over 1,350 controlled by the US.
Russia is likely to expedite withdrawal from Kerson — UK Defense Ministry
This week, the Russian-appointed governor of Ukraine’s occupied Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, claimed that Russia had removed the remains of the well-known 18th-century Russian statesman, Prince Grigory Potemkin, from his tomb in Kherson’s cathedral, according to the latest UK defense intelligence update.
“In the Russian national identity, Potemkin is heavily associated with the Russian conquest of Ukrainian lands in the 18th century and highlights the weight Putin almost certainly places on perceived historical justification for the invasion,” the update read.
The UK Defense Ministry also said that this symbolic removal of Potemkin and the civilian exodus from Kherson likely pre-empted Russian intent to expedite withdrawal from the area.
More DW content on the war in Ukraine
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mm, dh/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)