The Hamilton Spectator
Russia: 60-day extension of wartime grain deal acceptable
Original deal helped quell world food prices, but Kremlin has concerns
‘‘ The sanctions exemptions for food and fertilizers announced by Washington, Brussels and London are essentially inactive.
GENEVA A Russian delegation at talks with senior United Nations officials said Monday that Moscow is ready to accept an extension to a grain export deal that has helped bring down global food prices amid the war with Ukraine — but only for 60 days as the Kremlin holds out for changes to how the arrangement is working.
The United Nations said in a statement that it “notes” the Russian announcement about the extension and reaffirmed its support for the deal struck in July as “part of the global response to the most severe cost-of-living crisis in a generation.”
The United Nations and Turkey brokered a deal between the two warring countries in July that allows Ukraine — one of the world’s key breadbaskets — to ship food and fertilizer from three of its Black Sea ports.
The 120-day agreement, which helped take some of the sting out of rising global food prices, was renewed last November. That extension expires on Saturday, and another 120-day extension was on the table.
Moscow has been frustrated that a parallel deal to allow exports of Russian food and fertilizer, which is used across the globe, has only resulted in a trickle of Russian fertilizer getting out and no Russian grain at all.
“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.
“The sanctions exemptions for food and fertilizers announced by Washington, Brussels and London are essentially inactive,” it claimed.
As part of the arrangement, Moscow wants Russian ammonia to be fed through a pipeline across Ukraine to reach Black Sea ports for possible export. Russian officials also say banking restrictions and high insurance costs have hurt their hopes of exporting fertilizer.
A lot is at stake: 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 of people don’t have enough to eat. Russia was also the world’s top exporter of fertilizer before the war. The loss of those supplies, after Russia launched its fullscale invasion in February 2022, drove global food prices higher and fuelled concerns of a hunger crisis in poorer countries.
The so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative involves seaborne checks of cargo by UN, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials to ensure that only foodstuffs — not weapons — are being transported.
On the front lines in Ukraine, the eastern city of Bakhmut remained the site of fierce fighting, with Ukrainian forces denying Russian forces the prize of its capture after six months of attrition.