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Last ship to leave Ukraine as fate of Black Sea grain deal in Russia’s hands

In July of last year, the United Nations and Turkey worked together to broker a Black Sea agreement for 120 days. This was done in order to combat a global crisis of food that had been made worse by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Ukraine is one of the largest grain exporters.

In November, Moscow extended the Black Sea Pact by 120 days. But in March, it agreed to an extension of 60 days – up until May 18, if a list a demands was not met regarding its own agricultural products.

In July, to convince Russia to allow Black Sea grain imports, the United Nations also agreed to assist Moscow with its own agricultural exports for three years.


There are many questions that remain unanswered regarding our part in the agreement. According to Russian media, Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson told reporters that a decision must be made.

Last week, senior officials from Russia and Ukraine met with representatives of the U.N., Turkey, and Turkey to discuss the Black Sea pact. On Tuesday, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated: “Contacts continue at various levels.” We are in a very delicate phase.

Last week, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister, , said that he believed the agreement could be extended by at least two months.


Although sanctions by the West imposed after the February 2022 invasion in Ukraine do not apply to Russian food and fertilizer exports, Moscow claims that restrictions on payments and logistics, as well as insurance, have created a barrier for shipments.

The United States has rejected Russia’s complaints. U.S. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.N. ambassador, said last week: “It exports grain and fertiliser at the same level, if it is not higher than before the full-scale invasion.”


A Joint Coordination Centre, or JCC, is a group of officials from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, as well as the UN, that works in Istanbul to implement the Black Sea Export Agreement. They inspect and authorize ships. Since 4 May, the JCC has not authorized any new vessels.

Officials of the JCC inspect authorized ships near Turkey, before they travel to a Ukrainian Black Sea Port via a maritime humanitarian corridor to pick up their cargo. They then return to Turkish waters to undergo a final inspection.

A U.N. spokesperson said that only one ship is still in a Ukrainian harbor and is scheduled to leave on Wednesday to transit the maritime route with its cargo. Another vessel returned to Turkey Tuesday, and five more are awaiting an inspection on their way out of Turkish waters.

An excerpt from a letterseen by JCC last month stated that Russia would not approve new vessels for the Black Sea Deal unless transits were completed before May 18, “the anticipated date of… closure”.

The statement said that this was to “avoid commercial losses and possible safety risks” following 18 May.

It is unlikely that ship owners or insurance firms will continue to transport Ukrainian grain exports, if Russia decides not to extend the agreement and quits.

In October, the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine continued their Black Sea Agreement despite a short suspension of Russia’s participation.

The United Nations reported that Ukraine exported 30 million metric tons of grain, foodstuffs, and other goods under the Black Sea Deal, including 600,000 tonnes of grain on World Food Programme vessels to support aid operations in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.

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