Russia and Ukraine have yet to agree on the deadline for extending the grain agreement, the so-called Istanbul Agreement. Moscow agrees to extend the agreement for 60 days, while Ukraine insists that 120 days is the minimum time for extending the agreement. Accordingly, both parties consider that the agreement has been extended, but not by how much.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grusko said they extended the grain agreement under the same conditions for 60 days. According to the agreement reached in July last year by Kyiv and Moscow with the mediation of the UN and Turkey, Ukraine had a safe transit corridor to export grain from three Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.
The Russian diplomat pointed out that lifting restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products, as an integral part of the agreement, is ongoing but progressing slowly.
The government of Ukraine confirmed the extension of the grain agreement. Reuters reported that a senior official, who remained unnamed, said that Kyiv would adhere strictly to the agreement extension, previously signed for 120 days, starting from November last year.
On Monday, a deputy head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Vershinykh, announced the decision to extend the grain contract, which expires on March 18, by 60 days. Moscow insists on the “package nature” of the Istanbul Agreements. Russia will start by assessing whether it can unblock exporting its agricultural products and fertilizers to world markets in the next decision on extending the agreement.
Russia’s search for a way out
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the grain agreement provides an automatic extension of 120 days without objections from the signatory countries. Kyiv considers that Moscow’s position on the 60-day extension is contrary to the terms of the agreement.
If the parties want to shorten the validity period of the July agreement, Kyiv points out that Russia should follow the original agreement, as it clearly states that they can extend it by at least 120 days. As reported by Kyiv’s RBC, Ukrainian officials claim that “the Russians realized that 60 days is legally impossible, so they are trying to find a way out” of the agreement.
The two sides extended the agreement for 120 days in November last year, although Ukraine and the UN requested its extension for a year. From July to November, Ukraine shipped about 11.1 million tons of agricultural products, including 4.5 million tons of corn and 3.2 million tons of wheat.