The Russian delegation in talks with the United Nations has announced that the Kremlin is ready to accept a 60-day extension of last year’s Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The deal, initially brokered by Turkey and the UN on 22 July 2022 in Istanbul, allowed ships to export Ukrainian foodstuffs and fertiliser from three ports along the Black Sea. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year, the global food supply chain found itself severely impacted as Ukraine was one of the critical breadbaskets of the world. Food prices spiked and fueled concerns about food shortages in developing nations.
The deal also provides for seaborne checks of cargo by UN, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials to ensure that only foodstuffs — not weapons — are being transported.
The 120-day agreement was renewed last November. That extension expired on Saturday, and another 120-day extension was on the table.
“The UN Secretary-General has confirmed that the UN will do everything possible to preserve the integrity of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and ensure its continuity,” a UN statement said. It stressed that the deal had allowed the export of 24 million tons of grain and more than 1,600 trips by vessels through the Black Sea — with more than half the exports destined for developing countries.
Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia where millions don’t have enough to eat. Russia was also the world’s top fertilizer exporter before the war.
Last week, Moscow voiced frustration that a parallel agreement has failed to fully open the door to Russian exports of grain and fertilizer through the Black Sea.
“The comprehensive and frank conversation has once again confirmed that while the commercial export of Ukrainian products is carried out at a steady pace, bringing considerable profits to Kyiv, restrictions on the Russian agricultural exporters are still in place,” the Russian delegation said in a statement.
“The sanctions exemptions for food and fertilizers announced by Washington, Brussels and London are essentially inactive,” it claimed.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the organization has been working to facilitate Russian agricultural exports, noting that while Russian food and fertilizer haven’t been sanctioned, private companies have been cautious about dealing with them and “that’s why we’ve asked for letters of comfort from certain governments.”
As part of the arrangement, Moscow wants Russian ammonia to be fed through a pipeline across Ukraine to Black Sea ports for possible export. Russian officials also say banking restrictions and high insurance costs have hurt their hopes of exporting fertilizer.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov claimed that “Russia’s position to extend the deal only for 60 days contradicts the document” envisaging an extension of at least 120 days and said Kyiv was awaiting the official positions of the UN and Turkey.