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Russia’s Medvedev says Ukrainian grain deal could be axed

Russia is expressing discontent and casting doubt on the agreement’s future, with Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, being particularly vocal

The Black Sea Grain Initiative is being used as a bargaining chip, with one Russian diplomat warning that ‘the idea of the idiots from the Group of Seven’ that they can impose a near-total ban on exports to Russia will simply result in a mirror-image counter measure

THE Black Sea Grain Initiative could be scrapped if the West proceeds with its near-total ban on exports to Russia.

“The idea of the idiots from the Group of Seven about a total ban on the export of goods to our country by default is wonderful, because it also implies a counter cessation of imports of goods from our country in the most sensitive categories for the G7,” Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council and a former Russian prime minister and president, said in a post on Telegram.

“In this case, the grain deal will end for them, and much more that they need.”

The G7 is considering banning almost all exports to Russia in an expansion and reworking of the existing sanctions framework, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported, citing an unidentified Japanese government source.

Russian diplomats are using the Black Sea Grain Initiative as a bargaining chip in broader negotiations.

There are two main issues that Moscow would like resolved; access to SWIFT, and the reopening of the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, which pre-incursion carried Russian ammonia that was exported from the Ukrainian port of Yuzhnyi.

It is important to remember that talk from the Kremlin’s representatives is sometimes just that, observed one commentator.

“What Medvedev writes in his free time does not matter. Russian characters always try to muddy the water, but he only represents himself,” said Yörük Işık, a geopolitical analyst from the Istanbul-based consultancy Bosphorus Observer, adding that the only person that counts is Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“With Russia presiding over the security council this week, we will hear other confusing things. We should not worry about specific words because Russia likes to make things confusing and complicated,” he said.

The grain deal has been beset by operational issues in recent weeks. Disagreements over vessel inspections and registrations kept inspections, which are required under the initiative, to a minimum during the past two weeks.

Although the grain agreement was renewed in mid-March, there has been no clarification on the duration of this term.

Officials in Moscow have indicated the deal will expire on May 18 unless progress is made on the facilitation of its own grain and fertiliser exports.

The grain initiative could slow further next week after Russia said it would not approve new vessels unless operators guarantee the ships will finish transit by the deadline date, according to a letter seen by Reuters

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed in July 2022 and enables the safe export of grain and other agricultural products from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhnyi. Almost 30m tonnes has been exported helping to lower food prices and stabilise markets.

The G7, which is calling for the “extension, full implementation and expansion” of the grain deal, according to the agriculture minister’s communique, has condemned what it describes as Russia’s weaponisation of food.

“The right to the freedom of navigation is the most fundamental law of the sea and we need to stand firm in what we believe in against Russia,” said Mr Işık. “This is not a call to be hostile, but to explain to Russia that the freedom of navigation can be established through the grain deal or having a physical presence to protect these routes.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres while in New York this week, according to the TASS news agency.

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