Russia agrees to extend Ukraine grain deal
Russia is not opposed to an extension of the Black Sea “grain deal” originally brokered last August, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said on Monday. The diplomat made the remarks following negotiations in Geneva with representatives of the UN.
“The Russian side, acknowledging the package nature of the Istanbul agreements tabled by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, does not object to another extension of the Black Sea initiative after the expiration of its second term on March 18, but only for 60 days,” Vershinin told reporters.
The “grain deal” was initially reached last August and is designed to facilitate exports of foodstuffs from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, as well as re-enable the export of grain and fertilizer from Russia. The scheme was originally set to run for a 180-day period, and was later extended for the same amount of time.
However, Moscow has repeatedly criticized the arrangement, insisting it was not working as intended. According to Russia, the deal has effectively only enabled commercial exports of grain from Ukraine, with food flowing to Europe rather than to the needy countries of Africa and Asia, while Russian fertilizer and grain exports remained blocked by the West.
“Russian agricultural exports are being blatantly hindered, no matter how much the Europeans and Americans, who are used to telling lies, try to convince everyone otherwise,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier this month. Moscow has urged the West to “stop playing the food card” and identified the main issue with the deal as “sabotage by Western countries” of the Russia-UN memorandum.