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Russia attaches strings with further extension in grain deal

MOSCOW: Russia issued a new warning to the West on Thursday regarding a grain deal with Ukraine, saying a number of conditions must be met for Moscow to continue it beyond May 18.

The accord, negotiated in July by Turkey and the United Nations, has provided a safe route for Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea, which had been closed due to the conflict with Russia.

Russia, whose economy has been hammered by a slew of Western sanctions, has frequently threatened to pull out of the pact if hurdles to its own exports are not removed.

If Moscow does not see progress, the Russian foreign ministry stated in a statement on Thursday that “it is difficult to talk about the further extension of the ‘Black Sea initiative’ after May 18.”

There are no prohibitions against Russian food and fertilizer shipments to global markets, but the problems stem from secondary penalties imposed on shipping and insurance businesses, as well as banks.

The foreign ministry outlined a set of requirements for the deal’s continuation, including allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to reconnect to the SWIFT payment system.

The declaration further stated that agricultural machinery, spare parts, and services must be resumed.

The resumption of ammonia deliveries via the Togliatti-Odessa pipeline was one of Moscow’s prerequisites.

Furthermore, the foreign ministry urged the removal of limits on insurance and port access, as well as sanctions against enterprises involved in the production and transportation of food and fertilizer.

Since July, the agreement has enabled for the export of about 27 million tons of grain and other products. It was extended twice.

When it was renewed in March, Russia stated that it would be valid for 60 days rather than the 120 days stipulated in the original deal.

During a recent visit to Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov threatened to terminate Ukraine’s international grain export deal. He stated that Russia would not extend the pact unless its own agricultural exports were made easier.

“If there is still no movement in dismantling barriers to the export of Russian fertilizer and grain, we will consider whether we need the agreement,” Lavrov was cited as saying by the state news agency.

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