Home News Three more grain ships set sail from Ukraine amid questions about their safety.

Three more grain ships set sail from Ukraine amid questions about their safety.

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Three more ships carrying grain departed from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Tuesday, a day after President Vladimir V. Putin signaled that Russia would no longer ensure the safety of the cargo vessels, a message that underscored the perils facing a watershed agreement meant to help alleviate the global food crisis.

The Russian authorities were notified of the departure of the ships on Tuesday, according to Ismini Palla, a U.N. spokeswoman for the entity overseeing the agreement, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative. On Monday, 12 cargo vessels carrying grain set sail without incident from Ukraine’s ports. The departure of those vessels, and the ones that left Ukraine on Tuesday, had been authorized before the deal was suspended, Ms. Palla said.

Russia announced on Saturday that it was suspending its participation in the agreement after an attack over the weekend on its Black Sea naval fleet that it blamed on Ukraine. But Moscow’s decision has not completely stopped the movement of vessels, at least for now.

Ukraine is one of the world’s major exporters of wheat and other grains, and the July agreement, brokered with the help of Turkey and the United Nations, had offered hope for Ukraine’s shattered economy as well as the prospect of some relief for dozens of countries in Africa and beyond that are facing food shortages.

Speaking at a news conference late Monday night after a meeting with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Sochi, Russia, Mr. Putin reiterated that Russia was pausing its participation in the agreement, and insisted that the onus was on Ukraine to guarantee the safety of a corridor established for the safe export of grain out of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin did not rule out that Russia would honor the grain deal again. “We are not saying that we are stopping our participation in this operation,” Mr. Putin said. “We are saying that we are pausing it.”

Mr. Putin also delivered a curt and ominous response when asked by a state television journalist whether Monday’s missile strikes on Ukraine were a response to the attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet over the weekend. “This is, in part, the case,” Mr. Putin said. “But this is not all that we could do.”

Moscow’s decision has meant a halt to its participation in ship inspections in the port of Istanbul — and to guaranteeing security for any cargo vessels crossing the Black Sea, where its navy dominates.

Russia’s Defense Ministry stressed that point in a statement on Monday evening, saying that vessel traffic through the safety corridor established for the grain initiative was “unacceptable.” It accused Ukraine’s military, without offering evidence, of using the corridor for “conducting operations” against Russia and said “there can be no question of ensuring safety” until Ukraine made additional pledges not to use it for “military purposes.”

Underscoring the potential risks to Ukrainian grain exports, the Ukrainian military said on Monday that Russian shelling of the port in Ochakiv, which sits on the Black Sea, hit two civilian tugboats that were involved in transporting a grain barge. Two people were killed and another crew member was injured, it said. The incident and vessels involved did not appear to be directly related to the grain deal.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s statement — coupled with remarks from Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, reported by Interfax that Moscow “cannot allow unimpeded passage of vessels without our inspection” — signaled that the movement of vessels carrying grain might not continue.

U.N. officials have held talks with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, leading some analysts to believe the deal could be restored. And President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Monday that his government would continue its efforts to overcome Moscow’s opposition. The Kremlin views the agreement, which is set to lapse in mid-November unless it is renewed, as leverage to achieve its larger war aims, analysts say.

Alexandra Prokopenko, an independent analyst and an expert on Russia who writes for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that one Russian objective could be securing further exemptions on its own exports of food and fertilizer from so-called hidden sanctions, such as the elevated cost of insuring vessels.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Safak Timur contributed reporting.

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