March 16, 2023
Russia welcomes extending Ukrainian grain export deal for another 60 days
Russia agreed on March 13 to extend the Ukraine grain export deal, but only for a further 60 days, in a proposal criticised by Kyiv.
Following talks with the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Moscow said it would not oppose prolonging the Black Sea Grain Initiative aimed at easing the global food crisis, as had been feared. But it only agreed to extending the deal for half of the 120-day period of the original accord.
Ukraine warned that "contradicts" the original agreement but did not reject the proposal.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 saw Ukraine's Black Sea ports blocked by warships until the deal, signed in July, allowed for the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies.
Ukraine was one of the world's top producers and the Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped soothe the global food crunch triggered by the conflict.
More than 24.1 million tonnes have been exported so far under the agreement, according to the UN.
The initial 120-day agreement struck with the UN and Turkey was extended for a further 120 days in November until March 18.
Russia had cast doubt on whether it would agree to any fresh extension, citing concerns that the twin deal on Russian exports was not being respected.
It said it needed to see "tangible progress" on the parallel agreement on unhindered Russian food and fertiliser exports, claiming Western sanctions exemptions were "essentially inactive".
"The Russian side... does not object to another extension of the 'Black Sea Initiative' after its second term expiration on March 18, but only for 60 days," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said in a statement. "Our further stance will be determined upon the tangible progress on normalisation of our agricultural exports, not (in) words, but in deeds.
Ukraine's infrastructure minister said that Russia's stance went against the agreement, but did not reject Moscow's 60-day proposal.
"(The grain) agreement involves at least 120 days of extension, therefore Russia's position to extend the deal only for 60 days contradicts the document signed by Turkey and the UN," Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter. "We're waiting for the official position of the UN and Turkey as the guarantors of the initiative."
The UN said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "has confirmed that the UN will do everything possible to preserve the integrity of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and ensure its continuity."
Nearly half of the exports shipped so far under the deal are corn and more than a quarter are wheat, according to UN data.
Around 45% of the exports went to developed countries. The biggest recipient was China, followed by Spain, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.