Russia’s deputy foreign minister said on Monday that even if a deal allowing shipments of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea ends, Russia’s agreement with the United Nations to ease its own exports will stay in force, Russian state news agency RIA reported on Monday.
Moscow has repeatedly said it sees little chance of agreeing an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative beyond July 18, because it says Western sanctions are thwarting its own U.N.-backed attempts to export both grain and fertiliser.
Asked by RIA if the collapse of the grain deal would invalidate its memorandum with the U.N., Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said: “No, it will not.”
After invading leading grain exporter Ukraine last year, Russia blockaded its Black Sea ports, contributing to a global surge in food prices.
To help persuade Russia to allow grain ships safe passage under the Black Sea initiative last July, a separate three-year agreement was also struck in which the U.N. agreed to help Russia with its food and fertilizer exports.
But Moscow has repeatedly complained that Western sanctions imposed in response to the invasion continue to create financial, logistical and insurance obstacles to its shipments.
It has been extending the grain deal grudgingly, two months at a time, despite failing to secure concessions on six specific demands, but has begun signalling that its patience is now at an end.
“If Western countries are interested in ensuring food security, they should really take the path of lifting any restrictions and illegal sanctions regarding Russian grain and fertilisers,” Grushko was quoted as saying.
Two weeks ago a section of the Togliatti-Odesa pipeline which before the war had carried Russian ammonia, a key ingredient in the manufacture of some fertiliser, to Ukraine for onward export was blown up near the front line of fighting.
That put an end to Russia’s demands that Kyiv allow it to be reactivated.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jan Harvey)