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Russia to extend Ukrainian grain deal for 60 days, not 120


THE UNITED NATIONS — On the eve of a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain to expire, the UN humanitarian chief on Friday called its extension crucial to securing global food supplies and preventing prices from skyrocketing. as they did after the invasion of its smaller neighbor by Russia.

The Russian ambassador to the UN reiterated that Moscow is ready to extend the agreement, but only for 60 days, only half of the 120 days of the agreement.

Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia’s briefing to the UN Security Council, reiterating what a Russian delegation told senior UN officials at a meeting in Geneva on Monday, reinforced the insistence of the Kremlin to reduce the duration of the agreement to wait for changes on the operation of the package.

The UN and Turkey brokered the deal between the warring nations last July that allows Ukraine – one of the world’s main breadbaskets – to ship food and fertilizer from three of its ports of the Black Sea. A separate memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and Russia aims to overcome obstacles to fertilizer shipments from Moscow to world markets.

The original 120-day deal was renewed last November and expires on Saturday. It would automatically be extended for another 120 days unless either side objects – and Nebenzia said Russia has officially objected.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths opened the Security Council meeting by saying that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has seen global food prices continue to fall.

Under this initiative, he said, nearly 25 million metric tons of foodstuffs have been exported since last August, and the United Nations World Food Program has been able to transport more than half a million tonnes of wheat to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. Griffiths also said it was vital that the UN-Russia memorandum be fully implemented.

There has been “significant progress, but obstacles remain, particularly with regard to payment systems”, he said, pointing out that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Trade Chief Rebeca Grynspan “spare no effort to facilitate its full implementation”.

But Russia’s Nebenzia said “the memorandum just doesn’t work”, and the UN must recognize that it has “no way to exempt Russian agricultural export operations from Western sanctions” and that its efforts did not produce results.

He also claimed that Ukraine’s grain export deal had evolved from a humanitarian initiative to help developing countries facing soaring food prices to a commercial operation benefiting the four major companies. Western agrifoods in the world.

Accordingly, Nebenzia said that Russia had officially informed the Turkish and Ukrainian sides through a note that it does not oppose the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but only for 60 days, until May 18.

“If Brussels, Washington and London are genuinely interested in continuing the export of food from Ukraine via the humanitarian maritime corridor, then they have two months to exempt from their sanctions the entire chain of operations that accompanies the Russian agricultural sector” , said the Russian envoy. said.

“Otherwise, we don’t understand how the UN Secretary-General’s package concept will work through these simple agreements,” he said.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered that the world knows that Russia’s food exports are at least as high as they were before the war, and “when we hear the Russian government say they are prevented from exporting cereals, to export fertilizers, the figures show that this is simply not true.

Regarding sanctions, “we have made extraordinary efforts to communicate the clear exclusions for food and fertilizer to governments and the private sector,” she said. “Put simply, the sanctions are not the issue.”

Thomas-Greenfield also criticized Russia for delaying shipment from Ukrainian ports, which increases transportation costs.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.