Russia declared on Thursday that a landmark agreement to ensure the safe export of grain from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea it was only “half applying”raising questions about whether he will allow an extension of the arrangement that expires next week.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey last July, was intended to avert a global food crisis by allowing the safe export of Ukrainian grain from three ports blocked after the Russian invasion.
The agreement was extended 120 days in November and will be renewed on March 18 if neither party objects. However, Moscow has already signaled that it will only agree to an extension if restrictions affecting its own exports are lifted.
Russian agricultural exports have not been explicitly targeted by the West, but Moscow says sanctions on its payment, logistics and insurance industries are hindering it from exporting its own grain and fertilizer.
“There are still a lot of questions about the final recipients, about where most of the grain goes. And, of course, the questions about the second part of the agreements are well known to all.”said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Russia has previously complained that Ukrainian grain exported under the deal goes to rich countries. The “second part” refers to a memorandum of understanding with the UN that facilitates Russian exports of food and fertilizer.
YOU HAVE TO EXPAND IT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff said the grain deal is part of the country’s plan to end the war and should be extended indefinitely.
Andriy Yermak, quoted by the Interfax Ukraine news agency, said that any suggestion to end the grain initiative was tantamount to “put pressure on their intermediaries: Turkey and the UN”.
“At a minimum, it must be extended for the same period as before”Yermak told reporters.
Zelensky and the UN Secretary General held talks in kyiv on Wednesday on the extension of the agreement, which Antonio Guterres described as “critical importance”.
At the moment there are no plans for direct talks between Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Thursday that what he called the “Two parts” of the agreement – guaranteeing safe exports of Ukrainian grain and removing barriers to Russian exports – were “inextricably linked”.
“The first part is being applied, and we are fulfilling all our obligations in this regard together with our Turkish colleagues”Lavrov stated. “The second part is not being applied at all.”
UN Senior Trade Official Rebeca Grynspan will discuss the deal with senior Russian officials in Geneva next week.
Ukraine has so far exported more than 23 million tons, mainly corn and wheat, under the deal, according to the United Nations. The main destinations for shipments have been China, Spain, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.
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