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Russia has threatened not to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative if certain conditions are not met, reported Reuters on March 1.
The deal, which was signed by Ukraine and Russia and mediated by the United Nations and Turkey, is set to expire on March 18. It must be renewed unanimously by all parties involved. According to Reuters, Russia views sanctions on its payments, logistics, and insurance industries as an inhibitor to its grain and fertilizer exports.
“(The) Russian side stressed that continuing the package agreement on grain is possible only if the interests of Russian agricultural and fertilizer producers in terms of unhindered access to world markets are taken into account,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement cited by Reuters.
This is not the first time Russia has threatened to withdraw from the grain agreement. In October 2022, Russia's UN ambassador told Reuters that Moscow may not support renewing the UN-backed grain deal unless its concerns about ensuring Russian grain and fertilizer exports were addressed.
However, the U.S. and Europe did not target Russian grain and fertilizer exports by sanctions imposed after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The deal was signed in Istanbul in July 2022 to ease a worldwide food shortage resulting from Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports. More than 300 ships have departed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports carrying 6.9 million metric tons of grain to destinations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
However, Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of attempting to sabotage the grain corridor.
The agreement mandates that vessels departing from or arriving at Ukrainian ports must undergo inspection by observers from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations while passing through the Bosphorus Strait.
A statement from Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov on Feb. 15 noted that more than 140 vessels were waiting for inspections, with some waiting for over a month.
The renewal of the deal is critical as Ukraine is among the world's top grain exporters.