Fears of world food crisis as Russia says it is pulling out of key grain deal

The move has fuelled fears of a world food crisis - Rohit Kachroo breaks down just how serious the deal's collapse could be

Russia is pulling out of a vital UN-brokered deal that had seen more than nine million tonnes of grain exported from Ukraine and had brought down global food prices.

The country’s defence ministry cited an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet ships off the coast of occupied Crimea on Saturday morning as the reason for the move - though Ukraine has denied the attack.

The Russian declaration came one day after UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the deal, with the wheat fields of Ukraine feeding 400 million people around the world.

Ukraine also provides roughly 10% of the world's wheat exports, and more than half of its sunflower oil.

Guterres also urged other countries, mainly in the West, to expedite the removal of obstacles blocking Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

The UN chief underlined the urgency of renewing the deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, which expires on November 19, “to contribute to food security across the world.”

Local resident Nina by her house, which was ruined by Russian shelling a month ago in central Slavyansk, Donetsk region. Credit: AP

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has said Moscow “needs to see the export of its grain and fertilizers in the world market, which has never happened since the beginning of the deal.”

Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine and Russia offered differing versions on the Crimea drone attack in which at least one Russian ship suffered damage in Sevastopol, a major port on the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.

The Russian Defence Ministry said a minesweeper had “minor damage” during an alleged pre-dawn Ukrainian attack on navy and civilian vessels docked in Sevastopol, which hosts the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The ministry claimed Russian forces had “repelled” 16 attacking drones.

An adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry claimed that “careless handling of explosives” had caused blasts on four warships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Telegram that the vessels included a frigate, a landing ship and a ship that carried cruise missiles used in a deadly July attack on a western Ukrainian city.

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In other developments on Saturday, Russian troops moved large numbers of sick and wounded comrades from hospitals in Ukraine's southern Kherson region and stripped the facilities of medical equipment, Ukrainian military officials said as their forces fought to retake a province overrun by invading soldiers early in the war.

Kremlin-installed authorities in the mostly Russian-occupied region had previously urged civilians to leave the city of Kherson, the region's capital - and reportedly joined the tens of thousands of residents who fled to other Russia-held areas ahead of an expected Ukrainian advance.

“The so-called evacuation of invaders from the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region, including from medical institutions, continues," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.

The military’s claims could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that the Russians were “dismantling the entire health care system” in Kherson and other occupied areas.