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Russia rejoins U.N. deal to ship grain from Ukraine, easing food insecurity concerns

Ships, including those carrying grain from Ukraine and awaiting inspections, are seen anchored off the Istanbul coastline on Wednesday in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris McGrath
Getty Images
Ships, including those carrying grain from Ukraine and awaiting inspections, are seen anchored off the Istanbul coastline on Wednesday in Istanbul, Turkey.

Updated November 2, 2022 at 10:30 AM ET

ISTANBUL — Russia has returned to the United Nations-brokered deal to safely ship Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. Russia's move to suspend participation over the weekend had caused a spike in global wheat prices and raised fresh concerns over international food shortages.

"Based on our conversation with Mr. Putin yesterday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called our National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar today to say that as of 12 p.m. today the exports of grain will continue as they had," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting of ruling party lawmakers in Ankara, referring to a call he had Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement, Russia's Defense Ministry said it agreed to renew its participation in the grain deal after the U.N. and Turkey secured written assurances from Ukraine that shipping corridors would not be used for military purposes.

"The Russian Federation considers that the guarantees received at the moment appear sufficient, and resumes the implementation of the agreement," the Defense Ministry said.

The U.N. coordinator for the initiative, Amir Abdulla, said on Twitter he welcomed Russia's return to the program, which enables exports of food and fertilizer, adding that he's "grateful for the Turkish facilitation."

Russia had informed the U.N. and Turkey Saturday that it would suspend its participation in the grain deal because it could no longer guarantee the safety of ships in the Black Sea, after an attack on its Black Sea fleet that Moscow blamed on Ukrainian drones.

Global wheat prices soared immediately after Russia's announcement and leaders around the world criticized Moscow's decision and urged Russia to resume its participation, fearing global food shortages and even mass hunger in developing countries.

Turkey and the U.N., brokers of the deal this summer, pushed on with the initiative despite Russia's suspension, continuing the inspection of dozens of grain ships already in Istanbul and managing the safe travel of vessels through the maritime humanitarian corridor set up in the Black Sea.

The agreement between Russian and Ukraine expires on Nov. 19, but discussions with the parties and Turkey and the U.N. to extend it have been ongoing.

NPR's Charles Maynes contributed to this story from Moscow.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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