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Russia Threatens to Bypass Black Sea Grain Deal with the West

Russia warned the West on Friday that if obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports were not removed, Ukraine would have to resort to land-based exports, and Moscow would work outside the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

The Black Sea Grain Deal's Purpose

The Black Sea grain deal, an initiative by the United Nations, aims to alleviate a food crisis before the Russian invasion of Ukraine but has worsened due to the deadliest European war since World War Two.

Deal Participants and Export Routes

Signed by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN, the deal allows food and fertilizer exports, including ammonia, from Ukraine's Black Sea ports, such as Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi.

Obstacles to Russian Exports

Though the West has not sanctioned Russia's food and fertilizer exports, Moscow claims they are hindered by obstacles like insurance and payment issues, which must be removed.

Lavrov's Statement on Export Alternatives

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that if the West did not address UN Secretary-General António Guterres's intentions with the deal, Ukraine would have to use land and river routes for export.

Moscow's Plan to Work Around the Deal

Lavrov said that if the West persisted in hindering Russian exports, Moscow would work around the grain deal, collaborating with Turkey and Qatar, as discussed by their respective presidents.

Agricultural Importance of Russia and Ukraine

Both Russia and Ukraine are major global agricultural commodity producers, contributing significantly to wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed, and sunflower oil markets. Russia also dominates the fertilizer market.

Russia's 2023 Grain Harvest Plan

On Friday, Russia's agriculture ministry set its 2023 grain harvest plan at 120 million tonnes, according to Interfax's report on a draft declaration.

Extensions and Demands for the Grain Deal

The 120-day grain deal has been extended twice since its signing. Russia asserts that any further extensions must meet its demands, such as reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT payment system and lifting restrictions on insurance, among others.