Grain ships sail despite Moscow’s withdrawal from deal; missile rain on Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine – Ships carried grain from Ukrainian ports on Monday, October 31, suggesting that Moscow had stopped reimposing a blockade that could have caused world hunger, despite the suspension of its participation in a United Nations program aimed at safely exporting grain from the war zone.

Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine and explosions sounded in Kyiv, sending black smoke into the sky as Russia rained down missiles in fresh airstrikes. Ukrainian officials said energy infrastructure had been hit, including hydroelectric dams, cutting off electricity, heating and water.

The Ukrainian military said it shot down 44 of the 50 Russian missiles. But the strikes left 80% of Kyiv without running water, authorities said, adding they hoped to restore it soon. Two people were reportedly injured in the Kyiv region.

Still, the resumption of food exports from Ukrainian ports suggested that at least one doomsday scenario had been averted for now. International officials feared Moscow could reimpose a blockade on Ukrainian grain, after Russia announced on Saturday it was suspending its role in the UN-backed program.
program that escorts freighters across the Black Sea.

“Civilian freighters can never be a military target or taken hostage. Food must flow,” tweeted Amir Abdullah, the UN official coordinating the program.

Shortly after, Ukraine confirmed that 12 ships had sailed. The 354,500 tonnes of grain they were carrying was the highest in a day since the program began, suggesting a backlog was being cleared after the halt in exports on Sunday.

But shipments could be interrupted again, especially if insurers stop underwriting them. Chris McGill, freight manager at Lloyd’s of London, the insurer Ascot, which has underwritten many shipments so far, told Reuters his company was suspending writing new cover for shipments from Monday ” until we understand the situation better.”

The previously issued insurance “is still valid”, he said. Most policies need to be renewed every seven days.

Missile strikes

Russia’s missile strikes during the Monday morning rush hour repeated a tactic it has continued this month by targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, particularly power plants.

“Instead of fighting on the battlefield, Russia is fighting civilians,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. “Don’t justify these attacks by calling them a ‘response’. Russia does it because it still has the missiles and the will to kill the Ukrainians.

US Ambassador to Kyiv, Bridget Brink, tweeted: “Like millions of Ukrainians, our @USEmbassyKyiv team is once again taking cover as Russia continues its ruthless and barbaric missile strikes on the Ukrainian people with the aim of leaving the country cold and dark as winter approaches.

Over the past three weeks, Russia has waged a campaign of attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure using expensive long-range missiles and cheap Iranian-made “suicide drones” that fly at a target and explode.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said 18 targets, mostly energy infrastructure, were hit by missile and drone strikes on 10 Ukrainian regions on Monday.

In Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, strikes caused a blackout that left trolleybus driver Ihor Polovikov stranded in his electric cable vehicle on the side of the road.

He was fed up, he said, adding: “But no one is going to give up like that. We got used to it, it’s the ninth month. Everyone understood that it was necessary.

Hunger averted

Moscow said it was forced out of the Black Sea grain transport deal after accusing Kyiv of causing explosions that damaged Russian navy ships in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on Saturday .

Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied being behind the explosions that hit the Crimean base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, but says the Russian navy is a legitimate military target. Moscow said the blasts were caused by a wave of sea and air drones.

After Russia suspended its participation in the grain shipment program, the United States accused Russia of using food as a weapon. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow is “blackmailing the world with hunger”. Russia denies that is its goal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the UN-brokered deal was “hardly achievable” since Russia could no longer guarantee safe navigation. He did not specify why the expeditions would now be dangerous and declined to say under what conditions Moscow could join the arrangement.

But the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments on Monday suggested that Moscow was stopping before trying to impose a new blockade.

Both Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s largest food exporters. For three months, the UN-backed deal ensured that Ukrainian exports could reach markets, de facto lifting the Russian blockade on Ukraine. News that Moscow was pulling out of the deal sent world wheat prices soaring.
more than 5% on Monday morning.

The ships that sailed on Monday included one contracted by the United Nations World Food Program to bring 40,000 tons of grain to drought-stricken Africa.

“Even if Russia behaves hesitantly because it has not received the same benefits, we will resolutely continue our efforts to serve humanity,” said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who contributed to the mediation of the grain agreement.

“Our effort to deliver this wheat to countries threatened by famine is obvious. With the joint mechanism we established in Istanbul, we have contributed to alleviating a global food crisis,” he said. –

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