Russia allows 60-day extension to the Black Sea Grain Initiative

Russia has agreed to an extension of just 60 days for the Black Sea Corridor deal, which permits Ukraine to export grain by sea from three named ports via a narrow corridor in the Black Sea to Istanbul. When the vessels carrying the grain reach the north side of Istanbul, they have to be inspected by a Joint Coordination Centre set up by the UN, Turkiye, Russia and Ukraine.

The first extension to the deal, brokered by the UN and Turkiye last July, was announced in November 2022 and was for 120 days. Ukraine had hoped that the new extension would be for longer (a year) and would add an additional port. The November extension was scheduled to expire on March 18th.

The UN did not comment on the restricted nature of the extension, stating only that “the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is crucial for global food security, as grain and fertilizer prices and availability have not returned to pre-war levels, causing hardship particularly in developing countries”.

Negotiations had begun between UN officials and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin and took only a day. UN trade official Rebeca Grynspan and aid chief Martin Griffiths also took part in the talks.

Russian officials have argued that, although the country’s agricultural exports have not explicitly been sanctioned by the West, the sanctions on Russian payments, logistics and access to insurance have created a virtually insurmountable barrier for grain and fertilizer exports. Russia has also pointed out that, while the promise had been that Ukrainian grain would head for the developing nations of the global south, in fact the majority of the exports from the Ukrainian ports had ended up in Western Europe or China.