Russia said Saturday it is pulling out of a deal to safely allow grain shipments to leave Russian-occupied Ukrainian ports after accusing Britain of helping to plan a drone attack on its ships in Sevastopol on the Black Sea. File Photo by Gokhan Mert/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Russia on Saturday accused Britain of being behind a "terrorist attack" on the Nord Stream gas pipeline and said it is pulling out of a deal to safely allow grain shipments from ports in occupied Ukraine.
The Kremlin did not elaborate or provide any direct evidence supporting the claim that Britain had anything to do with damaging the key pipeline between Russia and the West in late September.
The Russian defense ministry also accused Britain's special forces of helping to conduct a "massive" drone attack Saturday on Russian ships in the Black Sea. It used that incident as the basis for pulling out of the multi-country deal to allow the safe export of agricultural products from Russian-occupied Ukrainian ports.
The drone attack took place in the early hours of Saturday at the Russian-occupied port of Sevastopol in the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula. One Russian ship suffered minor damage, according to Moscow.
"Today (Saturday) at 04:20 a.m., the Kiev regime carried out a terrorist attack on ships of the Black Sea Fleet and civilian ships," Russia's defense ministry said in a statement, published by state-owned media agency TASS.
The statement claimed nine drones and seven autonomous marine unmanned vehicles were involved in the attack, and that Russian forces destroyed all air targets.
In response, Russia will now "suspend" participation in the deal that has allowed vital agricultural grain shipments to leave Ukrainian ports.
After five months sitting idle, those shipments restarted in August after the United Nations and Turkey helped broker a safe-passage deal for the much-needed food products from Ukraine.
Global food prices soared during the time grain shipments were unable to leave Ukraine, which is known as the breadbasket of Europe.
The United Nations reacted to the news by reaffirming its "unwavering commitment" to the grain deal.
"If food and fertilizers do not reach global markets now, farmers will not have fertilizers at the right time and at a price they can afford as the planting season begins, endangering crops in all regions of the world in 2023 and 2024, with dramatic effect on food production and food prices worldwide," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. "The current crisis of affordability will turn into a crisis of availability."
Russia alleged that experts from the British Royal Navy helped prepare Ukrainian forces for the Black Sea attack.
"The preparation of this terrorist act and the training of the military personnel of the Ukrainian 73rd Special Center for Maritime Operations were carried out under the guidance of British specialists located in the city of Ochakiv in Ukraine's Mykolaiv region," the Kremlin said.
It said the same British unit was the one that was behind damaging the Nord Stream pipeline in late September, Moscow asserted.
"According to available information, representatives of this unit of the British Navy took part in the planning, provision and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on September 26 this year -- blowing up the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines," the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
The British Ministry of Defense on Saturday vehemently denied any involvement in either incident.
"To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale. This invented story says more about arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the West," the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.
Russia has previously accused the West of conspiring to cause the leak in the gas pipeline but Saturday's claims were the first accusations leveled at a specific country.
The two pipelines were damaged by explosions under the Baltic Sea, causing four leaks. Russian energy company Gazprom holds the majority stake in Nord Stream AG, the company operating both strings of the Nord Stream pipeline network.
Leaks ended and Nord Stream, which extends from Russia's far western border through the Baltic Sea to Germany, was stabilized in early October.
The Swedish government said earlier this month "certain seizures" have been made in its criminal investigation into seafloor detonations along the Nord Stream pipeline system, a probe that strengthened suspicions that the network was the target of sabotage.
Firefighters conduct work while smoke rises from a building after it was attacked by Russian drones in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 17, 2022. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo