EXCLUSIVE: Russia prepares to withdraw from Black Sea grain deal, writes UN demands

GENEVA, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva told Reuters on Thursday that Moscow had raised concerns with the United Nations about a deal on exports of grains from the Black Sea and was prepared to refuse to renew it next month unless it asked has been solved.

The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, paves the way for Ukraine to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports closed since the Russian invasion. Moscow has won guarantees for its grain and fertilizer exports.

The agreement helped avert a global food crisis: Russia and Ukraine are the world’s two largest grain exporters, and Russia is the number one fertilizer exporter. But Moscow has repeatedly complained about its implementation, arguing that it still faces difficulties selling fertilizers and food.

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Russia’s UN ambassador to Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, told Reuters in an interview that Moscow had written to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday with a list of complaints. U.N. officials will discuss the renewal of the agreement in Moscow on Sunday.

“If we see nothing happening on the Russian side – exporting Russian grain and fertilizers – then excuse me, we’re going to have to look at it differently,” he said.

Asked if Russia would refuse to support an update to the grain deal due to concerns, he said: “It is possible … we are not against the delivery of grain, but the deal should be equal and fair to all parties. Executed fairly.”

Gatilov declined to provide a copy of the letter.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We are in close contact with Russian officials, as well as those in the EU, UK and US, to remove the last hurdle to facilitate Russian grain and fertilizer exports.”

Guterres is committed to these efforts and is committed to expanding and expanding the Black Sea Grains Initiative, he said.

Gatilov, a career diplomat who served as deputy foreign minister before taking up the Geneva post, said he believed the prospect of a negotiated settlement to the nearly eight-month-old Ukrainian war was fading. He cited what he called “terrorist acts” such as the explosion on a bridge leading to Crimea.

“All of this makes it more difficult to reach a political solution,” he said.

Washington has said Russia’s claim to be open to talks about the future of the war amounted to “posturing” if Russia continued to attack Ukrainian cities.read more

Asked about the prospect of a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, Gatilov said that was not feasible given the level of U.S. military support for Ukraine. “This makes America part of the conflict,” he said.

However, he was more optimistic about the outcome of other negotiations, such as aid access and further prisoner exchanges, calling those “possible”. An ICRC delegation recently met with the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow to discuss a possible exchange, he said, without giving further details. The ICRC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Reporting by Emma Farge Editing by Peter Graff

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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