Russia Threatens to Scrap Key Ukraine Grain Export Deal

Russia Threatens to Scrap Key Ukraine Grain Export Deal

The deal, which had an unceremonious welcome by Moscow immediately after its acceptance, is key to both Ukraine’s economy and food security internationally.

Moscow has formally threatened to quit a key four-way agreement on Black Sea grain exports reached earlier this summer

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, told Reuters in an interview that Moscow has submitted a list of complaints about the deal’s implementation to the UN.

The deal reportedly included guarantees for Russian grain and fertilizer exports that the Kremlin says are not being fully enforced. "If we see nothing is happening on the Russian side of the deal—export of Russian grains and fertilizers—then excuse us, we will have to look at it in a different way,” Gatilov said. "There is a possibility. … We are not against deliveries of grains but this deal should be equal, it should be fair and fairly implemented by all sides," he said when asked if Russia might block the deal’s renewal.

The deal, brokered between Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the UN in July, establishes maritime safe corridors for the export of grain out of designated Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Russian president Vladimir Putin criticized the agreement in September, arguing that the grain shipments were not going to the countries most in need. 

"What we see is a brazen deception ... a deception by the international community of our partners in Africa, and other countries that are in dire need of food. It's just a scam," he said. "It is obvious that with this approach, the scale of food problems in the world will only increase ... which can lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.” Putin raised the concern that Moscow did not receive the sanctions relief on fertilizers and other agricultural products that it was promised as part of the deal, according to Reuters. "There are no direct sanctions against products, but there are restrictions related to logistics, freight, payments and insurance. Many of these elements of restrictions remain," he said.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told Reuters the organization is working to address Russia’s concerns. "We remain in constant touch with Russian officials, as well as with officials from the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States in order to remove the last obstacles to facilitate the export of Russian grain and fertilizer,” he said.

The grain deal is widely seen as a lifeline to Ukraine’s shrinking economy, critically weakened by Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea coast. “Russia is doing exactly what we warned: renewing hunger games and threatening the Black Sea grain initiative,” tweeted Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba in response to Gatilov’s interview. “I want every African, Asian, Middle Eastern family to know: Ukraine puts forward no additional demands, we want the corridor to keep working.” Kuleba called on the international community to pressure Russia into staying in the deal. 

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters