Russia said on Monday it was ending its participation in a deal that had allowed Ukraine to export its grain by sea despite a naval blockade of Moscow, scrapping a deal that had helped keep world food prices stable and alleviate an element of the global consequences of the war.
Ukraine is a major producer of cereals and other foods, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision. Millions of people facing hunger or struggling, as well as consumers around the world facing a cost-of-living crisis, “will pay a price,” he said.
“Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will deal a heavy blow to people in need everywhere,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov said on Monday that the deal had been “on hold” until Russia’s demands were met.
“As soon as the Russian side complies, the Russian side will immediately return to the implementation of that agreement,” he said. The decision, he said, was not related to the attack hours before on the Kerch Strait bridge linking Russia to occupied Crimea, which Russian officials blamed on Ukraine. Ukrainian officials welcomed the attack but were silent on whether it had anything to do with it.
Russia has repeatedly complained about the deal and has threatened to pull out. On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement which stressed its objections, including what it described as ongoing Ukrainian “provocations and attacks against Russian civilian and military installations” in the Black Sea area, and said the United Nations and Ukraine’s Western allies had not resolved the Russian points.
“Only after receiving concrete results, and not promises and guarantees, Russia will be ready to consider restoring the ‘deal’,” the statement said.
The agreement, known as the Black Sea Grains Initiative and negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey, was due to expire on Monday after the latest in a series of short-term extensions, the last of which was in May.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would talk to Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin about the deal and expressed hope he could revive it.
“Despite today’s statement, I believe that the president of the Russian Federation, my friend Putin, wants the continuation of this humanitarian bridge,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that Moscow had broken its agreement with the United Nations and with Mr. Erdogan, rather than with his country, since Ukraine had made a separate deal with the two mediators.
“Even without the Russian Federation, everything must be done so that we can use this Black Sea corridor,” Zelensky said in remarks provided by his press office, adding that Ukraine was ready to restart shipments if the United Nations and Turkey they agreed.
The agreement had allowed Ukraine to restart the export of millions of tons of grain that languished for months after the invasion. The agreement also alleviated shortages that resulted from the blockades in the first months of the war; Wheat prices fluctuated on Monday, exposing vulnerable countries to the prospect of a new round of food insecurity.
Moscow has complained that Western sanctions continued to restrict the sale of its own agricultural products, and guarantees sought that would facilitate their exports of cereals and fertilizers. At one point last year, Russia briefly halted participation in inspections of ships that are party to the deal, only to rejoin in a matter of days.
In an effort to extend the deal, Guterres sent Putin proposals last week that he said would “remove obstacles affecting financial transactions” through Russia’s agricultural bank. But a UN spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Monday there were no plans for the two men to speak.
Ukraine has exported 32.8 million tons of grain and other agricultural products since the initiative began, according to UN data. Under the deal, ships are allowed through by Russian naval vessels that have, in fact, blockaded Ukraine’s ports since the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022.
Antony J. Blinken, the US Secretary of State, speaking to reporters on Monday, warned of a “profound chilling effect” on Ukraine’s food exports and the “security, safety and predictability” it has provided to commercial carriers.
While Ukraine has been able to export grain via land routes, the volumes are much smaller than what can be moved by sea. The lifting of tariffs and other barriers also frustrated farmers in neighboring countries whose markets were flooded with cheaper Ukrainian grain.
Blinken said the United States would work with Ukraine to find alternative means of export, including by rail, but added that “it’s really hard to replace what is now being lost as a result of Russia weaponizing food.”
safak timur, Daniel Victor and Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.