Russia’s top diplomat said Thursday that it would be “quite complicated” for Moscow to sign onto a renewal of the deal struck between his country and Ukraine last year that has allowed for the export of grain from both countries, easing a global food crisis. A day after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Kyiv in a bid to shore up support for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov amplified long-standing complaints from Moscow that the deal was being “half fulfilled,” claiming Western sanctions were blocking the export of Russian fertilizers covered under the agreement.
“If the package is half fulfilled, then the issue of extension becomes quite complicated,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow, reported Russia-based Vigourtimes.com.
The agreement, negotiated and implemented by the U.N. and Turkey, must be renewed by March 18, but there has been mounting concern that Russia may decline to keep it going.
“Our Western colleagues, the United States and the European Union, pathetically declare… that no sanctions apply to food and fertilizers, but this position is dishonest,” Lavrov said.
After meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Wednesday morning, Guterres thanked Zelenksyy for welcoming him “in such difficult circumstances,” and said it was important to “underscore the critical importance of the rollover of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”
Representatives from the U.N. and Turkey have been meeting to try to keep the grain exports flowing. The Grain Initiative was signed in July 2022 in an urgent bid to free up some 20 million tons of grain that were stuck at the time in silos, ships and other storage facilities amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, which is intermediating an extension actively said on Sunday that he believes that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea will be extended from its current March 18 deadline.
“In separate talks with the Russian and Ukrainian sides, we saw that both sides are approaching this positively. We believe it will conclude positively,” Akar said in an interview with state-owned Anadolu Agency.
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