Black Sea grain deal must be fully implemented, Russia says

Ukraine accuses Russia of blocking grain ships; European Commission bans Ukrainian grain exports to Romania.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

Only its full implementation can save the Black Sea grain deal from collapse, Russia's foreign ministry told Reuters on Thursday.

Moscow has threatened several times to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows Ukraine to export grain safely to world markets by ship despite Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, since the deal's inception in July 2022. Its latest threat on April 24 was to to retaliate by withdrawing if the Group of Seven (G-7) countries proceeded with a total ban on most exports to Russia.

On April 13, Russia said there would be no extension of the Black Sea grain deal beyond May 18 unless the West removed a "series of obstacles" to the export of Russian grain and fertilizer.

"(The deal) is not a buffet you can pick and choose from," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news conference in Moscow, adding that implementation of the deal so far had been unsatisfactory for Russia.

Russia notes obstacles include the restoration of access to the SWIFT financial messaging system for Russian state-owned agriculture-focused bank, a resumption of farm machinery supplies, and the unblocking of foreign assets and accounts held by Russian agricultural companies. Its top demand is the reconnection of the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the SWIFT payments system.

Ukraine: Russia is blocking passage of grain ships

In a separate report, Ukraine accused Russia of blocking the passage of four grain ships from its Black Sea port.

The Ukrainian navy, writing on Facebook, said Russia had effectively stalled the deal on April 26 by refusing to take part in agreeing upon the routes that four grain ships should take, a process that occurs for each export trip.

The Facebook posted noted that on April 25, at the joint coordination center in Istanbul, "Russian representatives refused to agree to the movement of vessels to/from the Ukrainian seaports along the humanitarian corridor, which operates within the Black Sea Initiative for the export of grain and related food trucks by sea."

European Commission bans Ukrainian grain exports to Romania

In a related report, the European Commission will ban Ukrainian grain and oilseeds exports to Romania until June 5, Romanian Agriculture Minister Petre Daea said April 26.

Romania has stopped short of enforcing a ban, while Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia took unilateral steps to protect their local markets from low-priced Ukrainian grain.

Daea said the commission's measures were conditioned by states' withdrawing their unilateral bans. If an agreement won't be reached, Daea said the commission will move to ban exports specifically to Romania.

The European Union's agriculture chief expressed optimism the countries bordering Ukraine will shortly accept a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to enter their countries for export elsewhere.

Related reading

Russia threatens grain deal if G-7 export ban proceeds

Poland reaches agreement on Ukrainian grain transit

Ukraine grain import bans now in Hungary, Slovakia

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