RIYADH: Russia’s withdrawal on Saturday from the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative is “politically irresponsible and undermines the humanitarian situation in the Middle East and North Africa,” Ukraine’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Anatolii Petrenko told Arab News.

Russia suspended its participation in the deal after what it said was a major Ukrainian drone attack on its naval fleet in Crimea.

Petrenko said: “It’s crucial to underscore that Russia concluded this grain initiative with the UN and Turkiye.” As such, its withdrawal “shows its inconsistency and unreliability to its commitments.”

He added: “As we speak, 176 ships with 2 million tons of grain on board are being blocked by Russia, waiting to be granted passage to their final destinations.”

Arab News tried to obtain comment from the Russian Embassy in Riyadh, but no response camw at the time of publishing the report.

The aim of the Black Sea Grain Initiative was to distribute vital food and fertilizer exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world. Petrenko said Ukraine is committed to maintaining its role as a “reliable grain supplier.”

On Saturday, Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said with assistance from Turkey, his country was ready to supplant Ukrainian grain and supply up to 500,000 tons to countries in need in the next four months for free, Reuters reported.

Petrenko said: “We have serious reasons to believe that this is an attempt to smuggle grain previously stolen from the occupied territories of Ukraine.”

He urged Russia to “reverse its withdrawal” from the initiative and “recommit itself” to its implementation.