The renewal of the historic cereal agreement is in danger: Russia raised doubts and the deadline to extend it is approaching

Archive photo of a corn field in the Ukrainian town of Hrebeni (REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko) (VALENTYN OGIRENKO/)

Russia declared on Thursday that a historic agreement to guarantee the safe export of grains from Ukrainian Black Sea ports was only being “half applied”, raising questions about whether it 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 prevent a world food crisis allowing the safe export of Ukrainian grain from three ports blocked after the Russian invasion.

The agreement was extended 120 days in November and it 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 everyone,” the Kremlin spokesman said. 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.

File image of grain being unloaded in Djibouti from the ship MV Brave Commander (Hugh Rutherford/World Food Program/delivery via Reuters)
File image of grain being unloaded in Djibouti from the ship MV Brave Commander (Hugh Rutherford/World Food Program/delivery via Reuters) (World Food Program/)

The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey LavrovHe told a news conference on Thursday that what he called the “two parts” of the deal – ensuring 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.”

“If we talk about an agreement, it is a package. You can only scale up what is already being applied, and if the package is half-applied, then the question of scale up becomes quite complicated,” Lavrov said.

The UN Senior Trade Official, Rebecca Grynspanwill discuss the deal with senior Russian officials in Geneva next week.

Ukrainian President, Volodimir Zelenskyand the Secretary General of the UN, Anthony Guterres, They held talks in kyiv on Wednesday about extending the deal, which Guterres called “critically important.”

At the moment there are no plans for direct talks between Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.

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.

“Both Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizer exports are essential for global food security and food prices,” Guterres told reporters on Wednesday.

(With information from Reuters)

Keep reading:

Russia suspended its participation in the Ukrainian grain export agreement and could push the world into a global food crisis