RUSSIA- Russia has officially pulled out of the black sea grain initiative, which has been facilitating the export of grain from war-torn Ukraine, after its expiry yesterday, 17th July 2023. 

According to Moscow, the cessation of the deal means the withdrawal of safety guarantees for shipping, the ending of a maritime humanitarian corridor, and the disbanding of the Joint Coordination Centre at the mouth of the Black Sea in Istanbul established to monitor the implementation of the deal.

Additionally, it means that the northwestern Black Sea would again be designated an area of temporary danger for shipping.

The deal was brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 to allow the passage of Ukrainian grain over the black sea following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and was on its third extension,  expiring on 17th July 2023. 

The deal has so far allowed Ukraine to export nearly 33 million metric tonnes of corn, wheat, and other grains, helping alleviate persistent global food crises, especially in developing countries. 

Nevertheless, Russia has been adamant that there are no grounds for extending the pact, claiming their demands to improve Russia’s own grain and fertilizer exports have not been met as provided for in a parallel three-year deal reached to support Russian exports.

According to Russian officials, while Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine, restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments.

Under these conditions of outright sabotage in the implementation of the Istanbul agreements, the continuation of the ‘Black Sea initiative’, which did not justify its humanitarian purpose, becomes meaningless,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Russia recently restated a demand for its state agricultural bank to be reconnected to the global SWIFT payments system to avert the collapse of the grain deal, following a proposal to allow Russia’s Rosselkhozbank to set up a subsidiary that could connect to SWIFT international payments system cut off by the EU after the June 2022 invasion.

There is no real replacement for SWIFT, and cannot be,” Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Ms. Zakharova remarked that the idea was “deliberately unworkable”, saying it would take many months to set up such a unit and another three months to connect to SWIFT.

Fatal attack on two Russians complicates matters 

Additionally, what Russia said was an Ukrainian attack on the Crimean Bridge killed two people on Monday morning, the same day that Putin was to announce his decision on whether or not to extend the Black Sea.

Sergei Mironov, leader of the A Just Russia party in Russia’s parliament, said Moscow should respond by destroying Ukrainian infrastructure.

That is what we need to do, and not discuss a grain deal that helps Kyiv’s rulers and their Western masters line their pockets. There can be no grain deal after another terrorist attack,”  he said on Telegram. 

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked that the matters were unrelated and that the president had already decided the fate of the deal before the unfortunate incident. 

The light at the end of the tunnel

Although Russia has officially quit the deal, the foreign ministry says it would willingly resume the deal once the terms of its parallel deal are met. 

The foreign ministry said: “Only upon receipt of concrete results, and not promises and assurances, will Russia be ready to consider restoring the deal.”

As soon as the Russian part of the agreements is fulfilled, the Russian side will return to the implementation of this deal immediately,” Peskov said.

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