Russia extends grain deal with Ukraine by 60 days — not 120

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — On the eve of the expiration of a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain, the United Nations humanitarian chief on Friday called its extension crucial to securing global food supplies and preventing prices from soaring shoot up later Russia’s invasion its smaller neighbor.

Russia’s UN ambassador reiterated that Moscow is ready to extend the deal – but only by 60 days, just half of the 120-day deal.

Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia’s briefing to the UN Security Council, in which he repeated what a Russian delegation said to senior UN officials at a meeting in Geneva on Monday, reinforced the Kremlin’s insistence on shortening the deal’s duration, to await changes to how the package works .

The United Nations and Turkey last July brokered the deal between the warring countries that allows Ukraine – one of the world’s main breadbaskets – to ship food and fertilizer from three of its Black Sea ports. A separate memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and Russia aims to remove obstacles to Moscow’s fertilizer shipments to world markets.

The original 120-day agreement was extended last November and expires on Saturday. It would be automatically extended for another 120 days unless either party objects – and Nebenzia said Russia has officially objected.

Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, opened the Security Council meeting and said the Black Sea Grains Initiative has led to a further fall in global food prices.

Under the initiative, nearly 25 million tons of food have been exported since last August, and the UN World Food Program has been able to ship more than half a million tons of wheat to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. Griffiths also said it was crucial that the UN-Russia memorandum be fully implemented.

There have been “significant advances, but obstacles remain, particularly with regard to payment systems,” he said, noting that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Trade Chief Rebeca Grynspan are “sparing no effort to facilitate their full implementation.”

But Russia’s Nebenzia said “the memorandum just doesn’t work,” and the UN has to acknowledge that it “doesn’t have leverage to exempt Russian agricultural exports from Western sanctions,” and its efforts have yielded no results.

He also claimed that the grain export deal with Ukraine has been transformed from a humanitarian initiative to help developing countries facing escalating food prices into a commercial operation benefiting the world’s four leading Western agribusiness corporations.

As a result, Nebenzia said Russia has officially informed the Turkish and Ukrainian sides through a memo that it has no objection to extending the Black Sea Grains Initiative, but only by 60 days until May 18.

“If Brussels, Washington and London are really interested in continuing the export of food from Ukraine through the maritime humanitarian corridor, they have two months to exempt from their sanctions the entire chain of operations accompanying the Russian agricultural sector” said the Russian envoy called.

“Otherwise we don’t understand how the United Nations Secretary-General’s package concept is supposed to work through these simple agreements,” he said.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered that the world knows that Russia’s food exports are at least at pre-war levels and “when we hear the Russian government say it’s being blocked from exporting grain, exporting fertilizer, the numbers show it’s just not true.”

Regarding sanctions, “we have made extraordinary efforts to communicate the clear exceptions for food and fertilizer to governments and the private sector,” she said. “Put simply, it’s not about sanctions.”

Thomas-Greenfield also criticized Russia for delaying shipments from Ukrainian ports, which increases transportation costs.

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