Russia has indicated that it will terminate the agreement if the conditions it sets are not met, in particular for the lifting of restrictions on its own agricultural exports.
The last ships of Ukrainian grain will leave a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea within the day under the deal that allowed the safe passage of food exported from the country, a day before Russia decides whether to – or not – end its because of obstacles to the export of its own grains and fertilizers.
The agreement between the two warring states was reached in July 2022, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, to avert the risk of a global food crisis exacerbated by the Russian military’s invasion of Ukrainian territory. It was originally agreed to last 120 days.
Both Ukraine and Russia were among the world’s largest grain exporters before the armed conflict broke out.
Moscow agreed to extend the deal for another 120 days in November. But in March, it limited its extension to 60 days, in other words until tomorrow, Thursday 18 May. It has indicated that it will terminate the agreement if the conditions it sets are not met, in particular for the lifting of restrictions on its own agricultural exports.
“There are still many open questions about the part of the agreement that concerns us. Now a decision must be made,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, according to Russian media.
Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN met in Istanbul for talks on the deal, the Initiative for the Safe Export of Grain and Food from Ukrainian Ports, or the Black Sea Grain Initiative, last week. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Tuesday that “contacts are continuing at various levels”, adding “obviously, we are in a delicate phase”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that he believed the deal would be extended for another two months.
Although food and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions, Russia stresses that restrictions on payments, transport and insurance have practically the same effect.
The US is rejecting Moscow’s protests, with US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield saying last week that grain and fertilizer exports were “at the same levels, if not higher” than before the invasion.
Officials from the four contracting parties participate in the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the agreement. KKS approves the itineraries and is responsible for their inspections. He has not given any approval after May 4th.
Licensed vessels are inspected by the SCC near Turkey, proceed to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, pick up cargo, then return to Turkish territorial waters and are inspected again.
The last licensed route will depart today. Another ship is returning to Turkey, while five more vessels await inspection in Turkish territorial waters.
In a letter to the other parties to the CIS, Russia advised that it would not approve routes beyond May 18, the date the agreement expired, to avoid “commercial damage” and “security risks.” Given this caveat, it is unlikely that shipowners and insurance companies will continue to guarantee Ukrainian grain exports unless Moscow agrees to extend the deal.
For a few days in October, when Russia temporarily withdrew from the agreement, the remaining three parties continued to implement it.
To date, the Initiative has exported approximately 30 million tons of grain and other food, including 600,000 metric tons of grain transported by United Nations World Food Program ships to aid countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.
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