Cleverly condemns Putin as Russia pulls out of Ukraine grain deal

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has criticised Russia for pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (Leon Neal/PA)
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has criticised Russia for pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (Leon Neal/PA) Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has criticised Russia for pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (Leon Neal/PA)

Vladimir Putin is using food supplies “as a weapon” by pulling out of an agreement to allow grain exports from Ukraine, James Cleverly said.

The Foreign Secretary condemned the Russian leader’s actions, pointing to United Nations (UN) estimates that it could condemn millions more people to hunger.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) deal would be halted, adding that Russia will return to the previous arrangements after its demands are met.

Moscow has claimed that restrictions on shipping and insurance have hampered its own exports of food and fertiliser – which it argues are also critical to the global food chain.

But Mr Cleverly said: “Putin is using food as a weapon. The UK strongly condemns Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“This decision hurts the world’s poorest.”

Mr Cleverly said the UN-backed BSGI had played a significant role in lowering and stabilising global food prices, delivering more than 32 million tonnes of food products to world markets.

“The UN estimates that without the grain provided by the BSGI, the number of undernourished people worldwide could increase by millions,” he said.

He dismissed the Kremlin’s objections, saying: “Contrary to Russian claims, the UN and other partners have taken significant steps to ensure that Russian food is able to access world markets.

“The best way for Russia to address concerns around global food security would be for it to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and end the war.”

Mr Cleverly will raise the issue at the UN in New York at a UK-chaired session of the Security Council.

Meanwhile, Russian officials are being hit by British sanctions over Mr Putin’s “chilling” forced deportations of Ukrainian children.

Mr Cleverly announced 14 new asset bans and travel freezes against Russians deemed to have played a role in trying to erase Ukrainian national identity.

Some 19,000 children have been forcibly deported to Russia or territories controlled by Moscow during the invasion, Ukrainian figures suggest.

Many are sent to “re-education” camps where they are reported to be exposed to a programme of cultural, patriotic and military education drawn up by Russia.

Mr Cleverly said: “In his chilling programme of forced child deportation, and the hate-filled propaganda spewed by his lackeys, we see Putin’s true intention – to wipe Ukraine from the map.

“Today’s sanctions hold those who prop up Putin’s regime to account, including those who would see Ukraine destroyed, its national identity dissolved, and its future erased.”

Among the officials targeted are Russian education minister Sergei Kravtsov and Moscow’s children’s rights commissioner Ksenia Mishonova.

In Westminster, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper announced that Labour would introduce a “bespoke” mechanism to proscribe state-sponsored threats, such as Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, instead of “trying and failing” to use counter-terror legislation.

In a speech for the Royal United Services Institute in central London, she said the party would establish a “joint cell” between the Home Office and Foreign Office to share intelligence and speed up decision-making by ending “turf wars” between the departments.