Russia is Prepared to Quit Black Sea Grains Deal
Moscow has submitted concerns to the United Nations about an agreement on Black Sea grain exports, and is prepared to reject renewing the deal next month unless its demands are addressed, Russia’s Geneva U.N. ambassador told Reuters on Thursday.
The agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, paved the way for Ukraine to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports that had been shut since Russia invaded. Moscow won guarantees for its own grain and fertilizer exports.
The agreement helped stave off a global food crisis: Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s biggest grain exporters and Russia is the number one fertiliser exporter. But Moscow has repeatedly complained about its implementation, arguing it still faces difficulty selling fertilizer and food.
In an interview with Reuters, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said Moscow had delivered a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday setting out a list of complaints. U.N. officials are due in Moscow on Sunday to discuss the renewal of the agreement.
“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,” he said.
Asked if Russia might withhold support for the grains deal’s renewal over the concerns, he 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.”
Gatilov declined to make a copy of the letter available.
U.N. speokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “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 fertiliser.”
He said Guterres was committed to those efforts and to having an extended and expanded Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Gatilov, a career diplomat who was deputy minister of foreign affairs before taking up the Geneva post, said that he saw fading prospects for a negotiated settlement to the nearly eight month war in Ukraine. He cited what he called “terrorist acts” such as an explosion on a bridge to Crimea.
“All this makes it more difficult to reach a political solution,” he said.
Washington has said that Russian claims to be open to talks on the war’s future amount to “posturing” as it continues to strike Ukrainian cities.
Asked about the prospect of a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, Gatilov said it was not feasible given the levels of U.S. military support for Ukraine. “It makes the U.S. a part of the conflict,” he said.
However, he was more upbeat on other negotiated outcomes such as on aid access and a further prisoner swap, calling these “a possibility”. He said a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross had met with Russia’s defense ministry in Moscow recently about a possible swap, without giving further details. The ICRC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.