Ukraine applauds renewal of grain deal, but Russia opposes it again – POLITICO
A deal allowing Ukrainian grain exports to cross the blocked Black Sea has been extended for 120 days, Ukraine announced on Saturday, but Russia again asserted that it would agree to a full renewal only if its own grain exports food and fertilizer were released.
Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov thanked “all our partners for sticking to the agreements” in a Tweeter Saturday afternoon. “Thanks to our joint efforts, 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain” was “delivered to world markets,” he said.
The announcement comes after a week of wrangling after Russia said on Monday it had agreed to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but only for 60 days. Moscow dug in again on Saturday, despite objections from Kyiv and reminders from the United Nations and Turkey that the original deal called for a minimum extension of 120 days.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, visited Crimea on Saturday on an unannounced trip to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the peninsula to Ukraine. Putin was greeted by Russian Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev and taken to see a new children’s center, Reuters reported.
The grain deal – described by aid groups as a lifeline for food-insecure countries – was due to expire on Saturday.
Originally brokered by the UN and Turkey last July after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 fueled a global food crisis, the pact was extended in November by 120 days.
Russia will only consider extending the deal if “tangible progress” is made in implementing its three-year agreement with the UN to facilitate its own food and fertilizer exports, according to a letter posted on Twitter on Saturday by his mission to the UN in New York.
UN Secretary General António Guterres is due to attend an EU summit in Brussels next week to seek ways to unblock Russian food and fertilizer shipments, which have been blocked by sanctions targeting the Russian oligarchs and the state agricultural bank. The Kremlin maintains that the latter are responsible for food insecurity in the countries of the South.
Ukraine and Russia produce a significant share of the world’s grain and fertilizers, together supplying some 28% of the wheat traded globally and 75% of sunflower oil in peacetime.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called on the UN to negotiate a renewal of the agreement for a full 12 months, warning that this is necessary to “help fight hunger in the countries most affected by food insecurity. “.
The number of people facing food insecurity has risen from 282 million at the end of 2021 to a record 345 million last year, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). Africa is one of the hardest hit regions, with East African countries like Somalia and Ethiopia in particular facing extreme famine.
“Grain shipments to the countries most in need, including Somalia, depend on the critical renewal of the Black Sea Grains Initiative,” the IRC said, adding that Somalia receives more than 90% of its grain from Ukraine.
This story has been updated.