Russia Withdraws From Black Sea Grain Deal

Russia said on Monday it was stopping its participation in an agreement that had allowed Ukraine to export grain by sea despite a wartime blockade, canceling a deal seen as crucial to keeping global food prices stable.

The announcement appears to be the most serious blow to the one-year-old agreement which has been a rare example of cooperation between the warring nations and has helped partially offset the effects of a full-scale Russian invasion. Ukraine is a major producer of grain and other foodstuffs, and the United Nations has warned that several countries in the Middle East and Africa face starvation if Kyiv cannot export goods via the Black Sea.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters on Monday that the agreement was “on hold”, but added that the decision was not related to the attack hours earlier on the Kerch Strait Bridge linking Russia with occupied Crimea. Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the bridge attack, but Kyiv was not held responsible.

Speaking of the grain agreement, Mr. Peskov said: “As soon as the Russian part is fulfilled, the Russian side will immediately return to implementing the agreement.”

known as the agreement Black Sea Grain Initiative and brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye, had been set to expire on Monday. There was no immediate statement from either the United Nations or Türkiye about the Russian announcement. A UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the UN had received notification of the Russian decision.

Last week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, sent a letter containing proposals to President Vladimir V. Putin in an effort to meet Russia's conditions for extending the deal.

UN and Turkish negotiators spent the weekend waiting for a response from Moscow as time ticked on. Grain exports from Ukrainian ports shrank to almost zero in the days before the deal expired.

Russia has repeatedly complained about the agreement, which it sees as one-sided in favor of Ukraine. A rare example of successful negotiations between warring parties, the agreement reduced shortfalls caused by the blockade in the first months of the war, which caused global wheat prices to soar. It allowed Ukraine to restart exports of millions of tons of grain that had been languishing for months, and had been renewed many times, most recently in May.

But Moscow argues that while the deal benefits Ukraine, Western sanctions have limited sales of Russian agricultural products. Last week, in an attempt to address Russian demands, Guterres sent Putin a proposal that he said would “remove obstacles affecting financial transactions” through Russian agricultural banks while allowing Ukrainian grain shipments to continue.

As well as its hopes for smooth financial transactions, Russia has been seeking guarantees that would facilitate exports of its own grain and fertilizer, and the reopening of an ammonia pipeline across Ukraine.

Last week, Putin said that Russia “may suspend our participation in this agreement,” according to Bag, a state news agency. “And if everyone reaffirms that all the promises given to us will be fulfilled – let them fulfill these promises. And we will soon join this agreement. Again.”

Last year, Russia stopped participating in inspections that were part of the deal, only to rejoin in a matter of days.

Ukraine has exported 32.8 million tonnes of grain and other food since the initiative started, according to UN data. Under the agreement, ships are allowed to pass Russian naval vessels which have effectively been blockading Ukrainian ports since the start of a full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. The ships are inspected off the coast of Istanbul, in part to ensure they are not carrying weapons.