Russia seeks drone attack probe, guarantees to resume grain deal

Putin tells Erdogan he will consider resuming deal allowing grain exports from Ukraine if Kyiv provides ‘guarantees’.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow would consider resuming a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian seaports but only after securing “real guarantees” from Kyiv.

The phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday came following Russia’s suspension of its participation in the deal due to what it said was a drone attack on Moscow’s fleet in Crimea that it blamed on Ukraine.

Kyiv has not claimed responsibility and has denied using the safe shipping corridor for military purposes.

Putin told Erdogan that Russia sought “real guarantees from Kyiv about the strict observance of the Istanbul agreement, in particular about not using the humanitarian corridor for military purposes”, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

The grain export deal between Russia and Ukraine was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July to ease a world food crisis caused in part by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a major grain producer, and an earlier blockade of its ports. It is due to expire on November 19.

The Kremlin said a resumption might be considered only after the completion of an investigation of the alleged drone attacks on the Crimean naval port of Sevastopol.

Russia wants “a detailed investigation into the circumstances of this incident, and also after receipt of real guarantees from Kyiv of strict observance of the Istanbul agreements, in particular on the non-use of the humanitarian corridor for military purposes”.

“Only after that will it be possible to consider the question of resuming work” within the deal, the Kremlin statement said, referring to both the investigation and guarantees it is seeking.

It also said Putin had reminded Erdogan of “the failure to fulfil the second part of the package agreements – to unblock the export of Russian agricultural products and fertilisers to world markets”.

While these goods are not subject to the Western sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian producers have lost access to the Baltic Sea ports that they had used for exports, and to a pipeline carrying ammonia to the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Pivdennyi, known as Yuzhny in Russian.

In its readout of Tuesday’s call, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan had told Putin he was “sure a solution-oriented cooperation will be established on this issue”.

Meanwhile, Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu discussed the deal with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Tuesday, the Russian defence ministry said.

Ukraine has said Russia’s claim was a “false pretext” to withdraw from the deal.

On Tuesday, more cargo ships left Ukrainian ports despite Russia’s warning a day earlier that it was “more risky, dangerous” to continue the exports without Russia’s participation.

But the Joint Coordination Centre, the body overseeing a deal to export Ukrainian foodstuffs, said there are no plans for grain-laden vessels to move in the Black Sea on Wednesday.

“The UN Secretariat at the Joint Coordination Centre reports that the Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations delegations agreed not to plan any movement of vessels in the Black Sea Grain Initiative for 2 November,” it said Tuesday.

“The JCC can best deliver on its mandate with the full and active participation of all four delegations,” the centre said in a statement.

It said the UN Coordinator for the deal, Amir Abdulla, was working closely with Turkish officials “to resume full participation” at the centre.

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