Russia Suspends Black Sea Grain Agreement with Ukraine, Threatening Global Food Prices

Russia Suspends Grain Agreement with Ukraine Amid Ongoing Invasion

Russia has announced its suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the agreement with Ukraine that has allowed both countries to continue exporting grain during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The breakdown of the agreement, facilitated by the United Nations and Turkey, raises concerns about global food prices and highlights the escalating tension between the two nations as Ukraine mounts a counteroffensive against Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to the move as a suspension, emphasizing that Russia will resume its participation once certain conditions are met.

According to a U.N. official, Russia sent a letter to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul on Monday morning, officially announcing the termination of its involvement in the Black Sea Initiative. Peskov reiterated Russia’s complaint that the U.S. and Ukraine’s international partners were not allowing the agreement to be implemented fairly, preventing Russia from exporting certain agricultural products. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, speaking at the U.N., called on Russia to cease using hunger as a means of blackmailing the world, accusing Moscow of pursuing its own commercial interests.

The suspension of the grain agreement has raised concerns about a potential increase in global food prices, with vulnerable regions in Asia and Africa expected to be most affected. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticized Russia’s decision, calling it “another act of cruelty” and accusing Moscow of holding humanity hostage. The head of the World Food Programme, Cindy McCain, had previously warned of the risks of starvation and famine if Russia did not extend the pact.

While some experts believe that Russia’s suspension of the agreement may only be a tactic to gain further concessions from the U.N. and Western powers, others worry that it reflects Russia’s growing contempt for the U.N. in general. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his regret over Russia’s decision, highlighting the agreement’s role in ensuring the safe passage of over 32 million metric tons of food commodities from Ukrainian ports. Guterres emphasized the agreement’s contribution to reducing food prices by 23% since March last year.

Efforts have been made by the U.N., the U.S., and various European nations and private banks to facilitate Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports, but challenges remain. The Kremlin seeks a regularized payment system and wants its own agricultural bank to be included in the Belgium-based banking payment system, SWIFT. The suspension of the grain agreement raises concerns about disruptions in the global supply of grains, food, and fertilizers, which were initially caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Although talks are ongoing to find a new agreement, the suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative has led to uncertainties about the future of grain exports between Russia and Ukraine. It is believed that Russia’s recent increase in exports of wheat and corn may partially mitigate the impact of the suspension. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.N. Secretary-General Guterres have both urged Russia to renew the agreement, emphasizing its importance in stabilizing food prices globally.

In conclusion, the ongoing suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative by Russia raises concerns about global food prices and underscores the deteriorating relationship between Russia and Ukraine. Efforts to find a new agreement are underway, but uncertainties remain regarding the future of grain exports and the stability of food prices worldwide.