Black Sea grain deal can’t be extended: Russian officials

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Senior Russian officials said on Friday the Black Sea grain deal could not be extended under current circumstances but that Moscow was working to ensure that poorer countries would not suffer food shortages when it ends.

The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022, allowed Ukraine to resume sea-borne grain exports to help tackle a global food crisis the UN said had been exacerbated by Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War Two.

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Last month Moscow reluctantly agreed to extend the deal, known by diplomats as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, until July 17 on condition that it also received help with its own food and fertilizer exports. Russia says this help has not materialized.

“It is impossible to update this deal, and under these conditions, I believe, it is also impossible to extend it because the limit of our patience and desire to implement it has been exhausted,” Interfax news agency cited the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, as saying.

Matviyenko, speaking on the sidelines of an economic forum in St Petersburg, said Russia would seek “other formats” to ensure that poorer countries did not suffer from the collapse of the grain deal.

“We are open to all reasonable proposals and to any dialogue but not to the detriment of our country’s interests,” she said.

Separately, top Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said on Friday that Russia was unlikely to quit the grain deal before it comes up for renewal on July 17, state media reported.

Barriers

While food and fertilizer exports do not fall under the West’s tough sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine war, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance create barriers.

President Vladimir Putin will discuss the fate of the grain deal and other issues with a delegation of African leaders in Moscow on Saturday. The leaders were in Kyiv on Friday to discuss possible ways of ending the 16-month war.

Putin said on Tuesday that Moscow was considering withdrawing from the deal because it had been “cheated” by the West over promises to remove the barriers to Russia’s own grain and fertilizer exports.

Asked on Friday about the possibility of extending the grain deal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “How can you extend something that doesn’t work?”

TASS news agency quoted Lavrov as also saying that an explosion that damaged an ammonia pipeline between Russia and Ukraine was evidence that someone wanted to wreck the grain deal.

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