Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kremlin Warns Outlook for Black Sea Grain Deal 'Not So Great'

FILE - Cargo ship Despina V, carrying Ukrainian grain, is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos near Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 2, 2022.
FILE - Cargo ship Despina V, carrying Ukrainian grain, is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos near Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 2, 2022.

The Kremlin warned on Wednesday that the outlook for extending a deal beyond May 18 that allows the safe wartime export of grain and fertilizer from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports was not great because Russia's own such exports still face obstacles.

The Ukraine grain Black Sea export deal was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July to help ease a global food crisis that United Nations officials said had been worsened by the deadliest war in Europe since World War II.

"No deal can stand on one leg: It must stand on two legs," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "In this regard, of course, judging by the state of play today, the outlook (for its extension) is not so great."

To help persuade Russia to allow Ukraine to resume its Black Sea grain exports last year, a separate three-year agreement was also struck in July in which the U.N. agreed to help Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.

Peskov said this deal "has not worked and is not working so far."

Western powers have imposed tough sanctions on Russia over its February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine. Its food and fertilizer exports are not sanctioned, but Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance are a barrier to shipments.

Moscow makes demands

Last month, Russia agreed to renew the Ukraine Black Sea grain export deal for at least 60 days, half the intended period. Moscow said it would only consider a further extension if several demands in relation to its own exports were met.

Those include allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank to return to the SWIFT payment system, allowing Russia to import agricultural machinery, the removal of insurance restrictions, port access for Russian ships and cargo, and an unblocking of the financial activities of Russian fertilizer companies.

Moscow also wants a pipeline that delivers Russian ammonia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port to be restarted.

When asked on Wednesday if any progress had been made on Russia's demands, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. officials were "trying to doggedly move the process forward," noting that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had little power.

"The secretary-general has no authority over SWIFT. He has no authority over member states that impose unilateral sanctions. He has no authority over insurance companies, shipping companies, he can't tell them what to do," he said. "We're trying to herd a whole group of people."

US pushes back

The United States has pushed back on Moscow's demands, saying "the only prohibitions on food and fertilizer exports from Russia are those imposed by the government" of Russia.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's key agricultural producers, and major players in the wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets. Russia is also dominant in the fertilizer market.

The Ukraine Black Sea export agreement has allowed more than 27.5 million metric tons of food to be exported by Ukraine, and the U.N. says this has contributed to the lowering of food prices around the world.

But the U.N. World Food Program warned earlier this month that food insecurity remains at unprecedented levels in 2023 as conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes and rising fertilizer prices continue to disrupt food production globally.

  • 16x9 Image


    Reuters is a news agency founded in 1851 and owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation based in Toronto, Canada. One of the world's largest wire services, it provides financial news as well as international coverage in over 16 languages to more than 1000 newspapers and 750 broadcasters around the globe.