Russia’s president assured his African allies two days after the agreement allowing Ukrainian grain exports over the Black Sea was extended.
President Putin addressed the second International Parliamentary Conference “Russia-Africa” on Monday (March 20).
According to the UN, developing nations have received 55% of the entire amount of grain exported under the agreement since July.
The Black Sea Initiative is supported by the United Nations and Turkey. It was inked in July of last year. It contains a Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and the United Nations to facilitate fertilizer shipments.
This week, Russia pushed on shortening the deal’s term from an initial 120 days to 60 days to allow for adjustments in how the package works.
Is the deal fully implemented?
According to U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, nearly 25 million metric tons of food have been exported under the initiative since last August, and the U.N. World Food Program has been able to transport more than half a million metric tons of wheat to support humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.
Griffiths further stated that the United Nations-Russia Memorandum of Understanding must be fully implemented.
“Meaningful progress has been made, but hurdles remain, particularly with relation to payment systems,” he added, emphasizing that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and trade head Rebeca Grynspan “are sparing no effort to assist its full implementation.”
But Russia’s ambassador to the U.N Vassily Nebenzia said “the memorandum is simply not working,” and the U.N. has to recognize it has “no leverage to exempt Russian agricultural export operations from Western sanctions” and its efforts have not produced results.
He also claimed that the Ukraine grain export deal had been transformed from a humanitarian initiative to help developing countries facing escalating food prices to a commercial operation benefiting the world’s four leading Western agro-business corporations.
“If Brussels, Washington and London are genuinely interested to continue the export of food from Ukraine through the maritime humanitarian corridor, then they have two months to exempt from their sanctions the entire chain of operations which accompany the Russian agricultural sector,” the Russian envoy said.
“Otherwise, we fail to understand how the package concept of the secretary-general of the United Nations will work through these simple agreements,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered saying that that Russia’s food exports are at least as high as their pre-war levels, and “when we hear the Russian government say they are being held back from exporting grain, from exporting fertilizer, the numbers show it’s just not true.”
When it comes to sanctions, “we have gone to extraordinary lengths to communicate the clear carveouts for food and fertilizer to governments and to the private sector,” she said. “Simply put, sanctions are not the issue.”