Russia ties further extension of grain deal to lifting of restrictions

March 20, 2023 03:24 PM MSK | By Reuters
Image source: Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it would not agree in May to the renewal of a deal allowing for the export of grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports unless issues around the Swift financial messaging system are resolved and other restrictions are lifted.

In a statement posted on its website, the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow had decided to limit the extension of the deal to 60 days, until May 18, over what it called "a lack of progress... on normalisation of domestic agricultural exports".

The deal, brokered last July by the United Nations and Turkey, was extended by a further 120 days in November, a term that expired on Saturday. Kyiv and Ankara had sought a further 120 day extension but Moscow insisted on 60 days.

The Russian ministry said the deal's renewal in May would hinge on certain conditions, including the restoration of access to the SWIFT financial messaging system for Russian state-owned agriculture-focused bank Rosselkhozbank, a resumption of farm machinery supplies, and the unblocking of foreign assets and accounts held by Russian agricultural companies.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry said that neither Turkey nor Ukraine had raised formal objections to the shortened period. A senior Ukrainian official told Reuters that Kyiv had objected to Moscow's demand for a 60 day extension.

Western powers have hit Russia with tough sanctions over its actions in Ukraine. While its food and fertilizer exports are not under sanctions, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries are a barrier to such shipments.

The pact aims to combat a global food crisis partly fueled by Russia's actions in Ukraine. Both Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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