Russia is not ending its participation in a deal to export much-needed Ukrainian grain through Black Sea ports but rather is suspending it, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.
Putin’s comments were his first since Moscow announced on Saturday it was freezing participation in the United Nations-brokered Black Sea agreement after what it said was a major Ukrainian drone attack on its fleet in Crimea.
“We are not saying that we are ceasing our participation in this operation. No, we are saying that we are suspending it,” Putin told a televised news conference.
Putin said the Ukrainian drones had travelled through the same corridors the grain ships used.
“And thus they created a threat both to our ships, which must ensure the safety of grain exports, and to the civilian ships that are engaged in this,” he said. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack.
Other participants in the deal pressed ahead with the export of grain on Monday, even though Russia said this was risky.
“Ukraine must guarantee that there will be no threats to civilian vessels or to Russian supply vessels,” said Putin, noting that under the terms of the deal, Russia is responsible for ensuring security.