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The United States has harshly criticized Russia for its suspension of a UN-brokered agreement to facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, saying Moscow is “weaponizing food in the war it started.”

In an October 29 statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also urged Moscow “to resume its participation in the initiative,” adding that since late July the agreement had enabled the export of more than 9 million metric tons of grain and “brought prices down around the world, which has been critically important for low- and middle-income countries.”

Russia told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on October 29 that it was suspending the deal because it purportedly could not “guarantee the safety of civilian ships” traveling under the pact.

Moscow also cited “terrorist attacks” against its Black Sea Fleet near the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea as a reason for suspending the food program.

European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a post on Twitter that “the EU urges Russia to revert its decision.”

In a video address after Russia’s announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “a completely transparent attempt by Russia to return to the threat of large-scale famine for Africa, for Asia.” Zelenskiy called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of 20 leading global economies (G20).

U.S. President Joe Biden called Moscow’s decision “purely outrageous.”

The July 22 grain deal was intended to last 120 days with the option for renewal on November 19 “if no party objects,” the UN said on October 28.

Moscow has asked the UN Security Council to meet on October 31 to discuss the reported attack on its Black Sea Fleet at the Crimean port city of Sevastopol in the early hours of October 29.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said drones were used in the attack and that one Russian ship, a minesweeper, was damaged.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said Kyiv would try to continue using the Black Sea shipping corridor as long as possible.

Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said on Russian state television that Moscow was prepared to “supply up to 500,000 tons of grain to the poorest countries free of charge in the next four months.”

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