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Russia has suspended its participation in a U.N. and Turkish mediated grain deal

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

One of the rare diplomatic success stories in Ukraine is now in peril. Russia has suspended its participation in a U.N.-mediated green deal. U.N. officials are still hoping shipments can continue because millions of people around the world rely on the food and fertilizer exports. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Russia called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to protest Ukrainian drone strikes over the weekend on Russian ships in Crimea. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that prompted Russia to suspend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. He spoke through an interpreter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VASSILY NEBENZIA: (Through interpreter) Everyone sees clearly now that the Ukrainian side considers the Black Sea humanitarian corridor for military and sabotage purposes.

KELEMEN: But the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, says no cargo vessels were in the corridor the night of those drone attacks. And all parties agree this is a civilian program with joint inspections and carefully crafted procedures.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTIN GRIFFITHS: To be clear, no military vessels, aircraft or assets are or have been involved in support of the initiative by any party.

KELEMEN: Kenya's ambassador, Martin Kimani, said a reported drone strike in Crimea should not endanger global food security. He said he regrets Russia's decision to suspend its participation in a deal that the U.N. and Turkey negotiated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTIN KIMANI: The world is hungry, and this development makes life harsher for millions who are not party to the war in Ukraine.

KELEMEN: The U.N.'s humanitarian chief is still holding out hope that Russia's suspension will be temporary. Martin Griffiths told reporters outside the Security Council chambers that 12 ships have been cleared to leave Ukraine, and there are about 86 ships already in the Bosporus, loaded with about 2 million tons of food.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRIFFITHS: It was always going to be a rough ride implementing an initiative which brings two warring parties together, two warring parties for whom this war is as tragic and difficult and savage as any I have ever seen.

KELEMEN: The U.S. says Russia's move is having immediate and harmful impacts. Grain prices rose over the weekend. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.