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Kyiv criticises Russian proposal to extend grain deal for 60 days

Ukraine has said Russia’s proposal to extend the wartime grain export deal for 60 days is in violation of the agreement between the two countries.

A Russian delegation announced on Monday that Moscow was willing to extend the grain export deal with Ukraine after talks with the United Nations, but only for another 60 days.

The United Nations said in a statement that it “takes note” of Russia’s announcement of the extension and reaffirmed its support for the deal, which was struck in July as “part of the global response to the most serious cost-of-living crisis in the world”. a generation”.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said a 60-day extension contradicts documents signed by guarantors Turkey and the UN, but did not reject the proposal.

“(The grain) agreement includes an extension of at least 120 days, therefore Russia’s position to extend the agreement only for 60 days contradicts the document signed by Turkey and the UN,” Kubrakov said on Twitter.

“We are waiting for the official position of the UN and Turkey as guarantors of the initiative,” he added.

The UN and Turkey reached an agreement in July between the two belligerent countries that would allow Ukraine – one of the world’s major breadbaskets – to ship food and fertilizer from three of its Black Sea ports.

The 120-day agreement, which took some of the sting out of rising world food prices, was extended last November. That extension expires on Saturday and an extension of 120 days was still on the table.

Moscow is frustrated that a parallel agreement to allow the export of Russian food and fertilizer used around the world has resulted in only a trickle of Russian fertilizer coming out and no Russian grain at all.

Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN Humanitarian Aid Agency, received a team led by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin at the UN office in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The extensive and candid conversation has once again confirmed that although commercial exports of Ukrainian products are moving at a steady pace, bringing significant profits to Kiev, restrictions on Russian agricultural exporters are still in place,” the Russian delegation said in a statement. a statement. rack.

“The food and fertilizer sanctions waivers announced by Washington, Brussels and London are essentially inactive,” it claimed.

As part of the arrangement, Moscow wants Russian ammonia to be piped through Ukraine to reach Black Sea ports for possible export. Russian officials also say banking restrictions and high insurance costs have hurt their hopes for fertilizer exports.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York after the talks: “We are doing everything we can to maintain the integrity and continuity of the agreement.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said it was a “critical moment” in negotiations for the deal, which Washington hopes will be extended before it expires on March 18.

Price said the world needs the initiative, which he said allowed grain shipments to developing countries and helped lower food prices.

European traders said uncertainty about the talks, particularly the statement that Russia was seeking only a 60-day extension, was a factor behind the sharp price rises on the Euronext Paris wheat market.

Why is the agreement important?

Ukraine and Russia are major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia where millions of people do not have enough to eat. Russia was also the world’s largest fertilizer exporter before the war.

The loss of those supplies after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 has driven up food prices and fueled concerns about a hunger crisis in poorer countries.

The so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative involves controls of cargo by sea by UN, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials to ensure that only foodstuffs – not weapons – are transported.

The amount of grain leaving Ukraine has fallen, while the deal keeps food supplies flowing. Inspections of ships under the grain initiative have fallen sharply since they got underway in earnest in September, and ships have been backed up.