Russia suspends Ukraine grain deal after attack on Sevastopol naval base

Move comes after assault by airborne and underwater drones in which flagship may be been damaged. Russia has said it will pull out of a UN-brokered grain export deal after a dramatic attack by Ukrainian airborne and underwater drones on its Black Sea naval base of Sevastopol in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Social media showed footage of explosions both near and in the Crimean harbour, and Russia’s defence ministry said there had been an attack by “nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous sea drones” that began at 4.20am. A spokesperson for the ministry initially said the Ivan Golubets minesweeper had suffered minor damage in the incident, but there was immediate speculation by Russian and Ukrainian sources that the flagship Admiral Makarov may also have been hit.

The ministry later said in a statement via the news agency Tass that it had suspended “participation in the implementation of agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports”. The UN-brokered deal had allowed Ukraine to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports without fear of merchant ships being targeted, while Russia was allowed to export food and fertiliser.

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said on Saturday that the grain initiative had an “exclusively humanitarian character” and warned of a risk to food security if the deal was not restarted. It said that it had exported 9m tonnes since 1 August, when vessels began sailing, including 190,000 tonnes of wheat “to countries on the brink of hunger” in Africa and the Middle East.

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Russia, Ukraine, grain deal