4th Dec 2023

EU: Russia's withdrawal from Black Sea grain deal 'unjustified'

  • So far under the initiative, almost 32 tonnes of food products have been exported from Ukrainian ports, to 45 countries — more than half in the developing world (Photo: UNDP Ukraine)
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EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell said on Monday (17 July) that Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal is "completely unjustified".

Russia is yet again "weaponising the hunger of the people," he said, arguing that the situation is "very serious" for many people worldwide who depend on Ukrainian grains.

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Russia's decision to cease participation in the Black Sea Initiative, brokered by the UN and Turkey last year to ensure the safe export of Ukrainian grain, means no safety guarantees for shipping food and fertiliser from three Ukrainian seaports — Odessa, Chornomorsk, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi.  

The grain deal, which has already been extended several times, was due to expire at the end of Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday the deal would now cease because Russian demands regarding barriers to their own food and fertiliser exports have not been met.

"Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements concerning Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated," he said, according to Reuters.

Peskov also said Russia will return to implementing the deal as soon as Moscow's requirements are fulfilled.

Under the grain deal initiative, almost 32 tonnes of food products have been exported from Ukrainian ports to 45 countries, more than half from the developing world.

The initiative has allowed the export of more than 725,000 tonnes of wheat to countries, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen the same day dubbed Russia's decision as a "cynical move" — adding that the EU will continue to help Ukraine export agri-food products through EU solidarity lanes.

"EU is working to ensure food security for the world's vulnerable," she said on Twitter.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he believed Russia wanted to continue its participation, despite the withdrawal announcement. He added that talks with Russia on the matter will continue this week.

Erdogan also said that he will meet Putin in person in August and that it is crucial to discuss how to "open the way for the transport of Russian fertiliser and grain."

For her part, EU Parliament president Roberta Metsola raised concerns over the "spillover effects" of Russia's decision, warning that many countries depend on Ukrainian grain.

Ukraine's minister for foreign affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, accused Russia of "playing hunger games."

"It's impossible to fully compensate the blockade of Ukrainian ports by inland routes, so Russia is using hunger as an instrument to blackmail the world, pursuing it's own commercial interests," he told CBS News.

Meanwhile, food-security experts said Russia's decision could raise food prices again.

Sofia Monsalve Suarez from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems said that the Black Sea grain deal has helped calm "highly-volatile food markets" while preventing last year's food-price crisis from worsening further.

"Russia pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal is bad news for the 2.4 billion people suffering food insecurity right now. They could now see food prices rise again, as speculators take their cues from the diplomatic situation," she warned.

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