Russia has agreed to extend the Black Sea grain deal for a further 60 days after previously hinting that it could block the extension.
The deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey, was first signed by both Russia and Ukraine in July last year, allowing Ukrainian agricultural goods to be transported over the Black Sea and onto the global market.
It was extended for 120 days in November. Monday’s extension, just days before its March 18 deadline, was only half that.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said after talks with the UN that his country “does not object to another extension of the ‘Black Sea Initiative’ after its second term expiration on March 18, but only for 60 days.”
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said that the 60-day extension “contradicts the document signed by Turkey and the UN,” but accepted it anyway, adding that “We’re waiting for the official position of the UN and Turkey as the guarantors of the initiative.”
So far, some 24.1 million tonnes have been exported as part of the “Black Sea Grain Initiative,” according to the UN.
Moscow has previously complained that although the deal ensures the export of Russian agricultural goods, sanctions on other industries, such as banking, have hampered Russian trade.
“Our further stance will be determined upon the tangible progress on normalization of our agricultural exports, not [in] words, but in deeds,” Vershinin said.
“It includes bank payments, transport logistics, insurance, ‘unfreezing’ of financial activities and ammonia supplies via the Tolyatti-Odessa pipeline,” he added.
Russia has also said that Ukrainian goods are going mostly to richer countries, something it believes is against the aim of the agreement.