Moscow - Russia has withdrawn troops from Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea as a way to demonstrate its commitment to facilitating the UN-led efforts to resume exports of agricultural products from Ukraine, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.
“On June 30, as a step of goodwill, the Russian armed forces completed their assigned tasks on Zmiinyi Island and withdrew the garrison stationed there.
“This has demonstrated to the global community that Russia is not hindering the UN efforts to organize a humanitarian corridor for the export of agricultural products from the territory of Ukraine,” the ministry told reporters.
This decision will no longer enable Kyiv to speculate that Russia is somehow blocking Black Sea grain exports, the ministry said.
Zmiinyi Island is a strategic outpost off the southern coast of Ukraine which was captured by Russian forces on February 24.
On May 10, Ukraine made an unsuccessful attempt to regain control over the island, losing 14 planes and helicopters, 30 drones and 50 troops, according to the Russian defence ministry.
World leaders and international organizations have been raising concerns over an imminent and large-scale food crisis since the start of Russia's military operation in Ukraine in February, citing disruptions to supply chains, soaring prices, and derailed crops production in one of the largest grain-producing regions in the world.
Ukraine and Russia account for an estimated 30% of global exports of wheat, 20% of maize, and 76% of sunflower.
Western countries have accused Russia of blocking grain shipments in Ukraine's Black Sea ports. Moscow insists that the ports were mined by Ukraine, making shipments impossible. Moscow has also pointed out that sanctions imposed on Russia by the West are responsible for worsening the food situation in the world.