UN rights chief criticizes Russia for quitting Black Sea grain deal

Turk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, attends the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva

GENEVA (Reuters) -The United Nations rights chief on Monday blamed Russia's exit from the Black Sea grain deal as well as its attacks on agricultural facilities for higher food prices that have been particularly damaging in the Horn of Africa.

"The Russian Federation's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July, and attacks on grain facilities in Odesa and elsewhere, have again forced prices sky-high in many developing countries – taking the right to food far out of reach for many people," Volker Turk said at the opening of the Human Rights Council session in Geneva, referring specifically to high malnutrition rates in Somalia amid drought.

Russia quit the U.N.-brokered grain deal, aimed at easing a global food crisis, in July. Ukraine has accused Russia of intentionally striking grain terminals and infrastructure in the Black Sea port of Odesa and elsewhere. In some cases, Russian state media have claimed the facilities were housing mercenaries and military hardware, without providing evidence.

In the same speech evoking human rights crises around the world, Turk referred to a series of incidents of Koran burning in Sweden and elsewhere "repugnant".

He also called for "strong remedial action" from China in response to a report from his predecessor a year ago that highlighted possible crimes against humanity committed against Muslims in Xinjiang.

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Rachel More and Friederike Heine)