Shipment term

UK rejects Russian ‘sabotage’ claims as Moscow takes over Black Sea grain shipping deal

The UK rejects Kremlin claims that British military ‘specialists’ played a role in the September explosions on strategic energy pipelines linking Russian gas fields to northern Europe.

“We are monitoring the situation carefully, but it is right not to get drawn into these kinds of distractions, which are part of the Russian playbook,” a spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters on November 1. .

Russia claims to have evidence that British agents, working in tandem with Ukrainian forces, participated in a drone attack on October 29 against Russian navy ships docked in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that the same unit of British ‘specialists’ was involved in the ‘planning, supply and implementation’ of the Nord Stream pipeline ruptures, which were reportedly deliberate acts. of sabotage.

However, Moscow has not yet provided any proof of these allegations.

The Turkish-flagged Polarnet cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain passes the Osmangazi Bridge entering the Gulf of Izmit in Turkey on August 8, 2022. (Yoruk Isik/Reuters)

Nord Stream pipelines were drilled on September 26 in Swedish and Danish territorial waters, sparking a wave of mutual accusations between Western capitals and Moscow.

While the Kremlin has repeatedly hinted at Western involvement, it had previously refrained from explicitly naming state actors.

On November 1, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov doubled down on his claims, telling reporters: “There is evidence that Britain is involved in sabotage…a terrorist act against vital energy infrastructure.

“Such actions cannot be put aside. Of course, we will think about other steps. It certainly can’t be left that way.

According to Peskov, Russia is awaiting the completion of a damage assessment before deciding whether to start repairing the multi-billion dollar pipeline.

In mid-October, Swedish authorities abruptly halted joint investigations with Denmark and Germany into the incident, citing “national security” concerns.

Later, however, Stockholm announced its intention to carry out further examinations of the damaged pipeline, this time with the assistance of the Swedish Armed Forces.

“I have decided, together with the security police, to carry out a number of additional investigations at the crime scene,” said Mats Ljungqvist, the Swedish prosecutor in charge of the case, on October 28.

Swedish military authorities have also asked to participate in the investigation, he said.

Swedish and Danish investigators have already concluded that the pipeline breaches were caused by multiple underwater explosions. But so far they have refrained from naming suspects.

On November 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it planned to summon the UK’s ambassador to Russia to discuss allegations of British involvement.

“These actions were carried out under the guidance of British specialists,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “In this regard, the British ambassador will soon be summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.”

Resumption of the Black Sea grain agreement

Later the same day, Russian officials announced the resumption of a historic agreement with Ukraine which allows the latter to export cereals via the Black Sea.

“Thanks to the participation of the UN and the support of Turkey, we managed to obtain the necessary written guarantees from Ukraine regarding the grain agreement,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative immediately after the Sevastopol attack, raising concerns about potential disruptions to global grain supplies.

According to Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry, more than 200 grain cargo ships had been “effectively prevented” from leaving the country due to Russia’s withdrawal from the deal.

Negotiated in July by the UN and Turkey, the deal has so far enabled nearly 10 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain to reach buyers abroad.

As part of the agreement, a joint coordination center has been set up in Istanbul to inspect cargo ships and coordinate their movements. The agreement also established a “sea corridor” for the safe shipment of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea.

On November 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the status of the grain initiative.

During their conversation, Putin allegedly accused Kyiv – and its “Western conservatives” – of using the maritime corridor to stage the attack on Russian ships docked near Sevastopol.

According to the Kremlin’s account of the phone call, Putin also asked Kyiv to provide “guarantees” of its compliance with the terms of the agreement, which prohibits the use of the maritime corridor for military purposes.

Addressing the leaders of his ruling Justice and Development Party on November 2, Erdogan confirmed the resumption – effective immediately – of the UN-brokered grain initiative.

“After the telephone conversation we had with Putin yesterday, the Russian Defense Minister [Sergei] Shoigu called our National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and said that grain shipments will continue as planned from noon today,” he said as quoted by Turkish news agency Anadolu.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Adam Morro