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Russia’s announcement to suspend its participation in a grain export deal in the Black Sea requires a strong international response from the United Nations and the major economies of the Group of 20 (G20), said 29 October Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“This is a completely transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine for Africa, for Asia,” Zelensky said in a video address, adding that Russia should be expelled from the G20.

“Why can a handful of people somewhere in the Kremlin decide whether there will be food on people’s tables in Egypt or in Bangladesh?” Zelensky asked. “Russian terror and blackmail must lose. Humanity must win.”

Russia said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres it was suspending the deal for an ‘indefinite period’ because it could not ‘guarantee the safety of civilian ships’ traveling under the pact , reported Reuters.

US President Joe Biden called the move “purely outrageous” and said it would increase starvation.

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“There’s no merit in what they’re doing. The UN brokered this deal and that should be the end of it,” Biden told reporters.

The United Nations urged Russia not to withdraw from the deal, and UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said negotiations with Russia were ongoing.

“It is vitally important that all parties refrain from any action that could jeopardize the Black Sea Grains Initiative,” he added. haq saidusing the official agreement name.

The European Union said it supported UN-led efforts to keep the Ukrainian grain deal alive.

Nabila Massrali, spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy at the European Commission, said the EU underlined that “all parties must refrain from any unilateral action that would jeopardize the Cereals Initiative of the Black Sea, which is an essential humanitarian effort that is clearly having a positive impact on access to food for millions of people around the world.

Russia has also asked the UN Security Council to meet on October 31 to discuss an alleged attack on its Black Sea Fleet, Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said.

He said some of the ships attacked in Sevastopol in the early hours of October 29 were civilian ships involved in securing grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that in light of the attack, which Ukraine allegedly carried out “with the participation of British experts”, Russia “suspends its participation in the implementation of the agreements on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports”.

The ministry said earlier that drones were used in the attack and they were all destroyed. Only one Russian vessel, a minesweeper, suffered minor damage, he added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba earlier said on Twitter that Ukraine had previously warned that Russia planned to “ruin” the grain export deal.

Kuleba called on “all states to call on Russia to stop its Hunger Games and recommit to its obligations”.

The grain export agreement between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations has allowed a resumption of grain exports. Under the July 22 deal, Ukraine was able to restart its Black Sea grain and fertilizer exports, and some Russian fertilizer exports also resumed.

The agreement was to last 120 days with an option to renew on November 19 “if no party objects”, a UN spokesman said on October 28.

Russia had threatened to withdraw from the agreement on the grounds that the grain was not being sent to the poorest countries, which at the time of the signing of the agreement desperately needed grain to ensure that their populations would not starve.

Analysts have pointed out that Moscow’s withdrawal from the deal would deprive Ukraine of much of its hard-currency earnings and, at the same time, push up global food prices and inflation in Europe.

On October 28, the United Nations urged the parties to the Black Sea Grains Initiative to renew it.

“We underscore the urgency of doing so to contribute to global food security and to cushion the suffering this global cost of living crisis is inflicting on billions of people,” the UN spokesperson said. Stéphane Dujarric in a press release.

The deal freed exports from three of Ukraine’s ports – Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne – which had been blocked since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.

The agreement established an exclusively humanitarian corridor, the Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure said.

The ministry says that since the first ship left the port of Odessa on August 1, Ukraine has exported more than 9 million tons of food, of which more than 5 million tons went to countries in Africa and from Asia.

At the same time, 190,000 tons of wheat were delivered to countries on the brink of famine under the UN’s World Food Programme, the ministry said.

“Ukraine remains a reliable partner for the civilized world and is ready to continue to collect and ship agricultural products quickly to ensure global food security,” the official said. ministry added.

With reporting from Reuters, AP and AFP