Russia opposes 120-day grain deal with Ukraine


Ahead of the expiration of an agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain, the head of the United Nations humanitarian agency on Friday called the extension of the agreement crucial to ensuring global food supplies and keep prices from skyrocketing as happened after Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbour.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations reiterated that Moscow is ready to extend the agreement – but only for 60 days, half of the 120 days in the agreement.

Russian special envoy Vassily Nebenzia during a press conference with the UN Security Council, repeating what a Russian delegation told senior UN officials at a meeting in Geneva on Monday, reinforcing what the Kremlin’s insistence on reducing the length of the agreement in order to preserve changes to the way the package works.

The United Nations and Turkiye brokered an agreement between the warring nations last July that allowed Ukraine – one of the world’s key wheat granaries – to ship food and fertilizer from three ports. Black Sea. A separate memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and Russia aims to overcome obstacles to the transportation of Moscow’s fertilizers to the global market.

The original 120-day deal was renewed last November and expired on Saturday. It will automatically be extended for another 120 days unless one of the parties objects – and Nebenzia said Russia has formally objected.

UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths opening the Security Council meeting said the Black Sea cereals initiative had caused global food prices to continue to fall.

He said that under this initiative, nearly 25 million tons of food has been exported since last August and the United Nations World Food Program has been able to transport more than half a million tons of wheat to support humanitarian activities in Afghanistan, Ethiopia. , Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. Griffiths also said it is important that the UN-Russia memorandum be fully implemented.

“Significant progress has been made, but obstacles remain, especially for payment systems,” he said, noting that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the head of commerce Rebeca Grynspan “is making every effort to facilitate the full implementation of the agreement.”

But Russia’s Nebenzia said the “memorandum simply doesn’t work” and the UN must recognize that it “has no leverage to exempt Russian agricultural exports from Western sanctions.” and their efforts were fruitless.

He also announced that Ukraine’s grain export deal had been transformed from a humanitarian initiative aimed at helping developing countries facing escalating food prices into a profitable commercial activity. benefit four of the world’s leading agribusiness corporations of the West.

Therefore, Nebenzia said that Russia has officially informed the Turkish and Ukrainian sides through a note that they do not object to the extension of the grain initiative in the Black Sea, but only for 60 days, until May 18th.

“If Brussels, Washington and London are really interested in continuing to export food from Ukraine through the humanitarian corridor at sea, then they have two months to waive sanctions for the entire chain of activities that go with it. with the Russian agricultural sector,” the Russian envoy said. speak.

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

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered that the world knew that Russia’s food exports were at least as high as pre-war levels, and “when we heard the Russian government say that it is restricting military exports, cups, fertilizer exports, the numbers show that’s not true.”

When it comes to sanctions, “we have gone to great lengths to communicate clear food and fertilizer regulations to governments and the private sector,” she said. “Simply put, sanctions are not the problem.”

Thomas-Greenfield also criticized Russia for delaying the shipment of goods from Ukrainian ports, increasing shipping costs.

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