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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on parties involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative to do "everything possible" to prolong the grain deal amid Russian threats to abandon the deal unless the export of Russian ammonia to Europe is resumed.
Earlier this month, Russian officials threatened to pull out of the deal unless the damaged Togliatti-Odesa fertilizer pipeline is reopened. U.K. officials have suggested that Moscow is likely sabotaging Ukrainian grain shipments to force the restoration of the pipeline.
Russian forces fired at a part of the pipeline located in Kharkiv Oblast, damaging the pipeline to the point of inoperability.
The UK Defense Ministry also reported in early June that Russia was deliberately slowing inspections and actively blocking some vessels. Only one or two ships are currently being inspected per day, as opposed to six to eight in fall 2022.
Food exports out of the Black Sea peaked in October 2022 at 4.2 million metric tons and have since fallen to a low of 1.3 million in May 2023, the UN reported. This is the lowest volume of export since the grain deal began.
"The Secretary General is disappointed by the slowing pace of inspections and the exclusion of the port of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi from the Black Sea Initiative," Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq stated.
"This has resulted in a reduction in the movement of vessels coming in and out of Ukrainian sea ports, leading to a drop in the supply of essential foodstuffs to global markets."
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was brokered by the UN and Turkey in July 2022 and separately signed by Ukraine and Russia. It was then extended several times, most recently in May 2023. The current agreed-upon extension period is set to expire on July 17.
The grain deal has been essential in mitigating a global surge in food prices. Russia's all-out war against Ukraine, one of the world's top grain exporters, initially prevented Ukraine from shipping agricultural products through its Black Sea ports.