President Vladimir Putin said Russia won’t rejoin a deal enabling Ukrainian grain to be shipped globally until the West meets its demands to facilitate Russian agricultural exports, after quitting an agreement that guaranteed the safety of a crucial part of the global food supply chain.
“We are not against this deal; we are ready to immediately return to it as soon as the promises made to us are fulfilled. That’s all,” Putin said at a joint press conference after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday. “So far no obligations toward Russia have been fulfilled,” Putin said.
Moscow withdrew from the United Nations-brokered deal less than two months ago and launched attacks on Ukrainian grain-export facilities, fueling an escalating confrontation in the Black Sea.
The deal signed in July 2022 allowed Ukraine to resume much of its Black Sea grain exports. Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine had forced a halt in the shipments, leading to an increase in food prices globally and raising concerns that the war would cause millions of people to face starvation. Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest producers of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.
Erdogan, who helped broker the grain deal, said that work must continue to address Russia’s concerns. “We believe that we will reach a solution that will meet the expectations in a short time,” he said at the press conference.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was frail from the onset. Russia suspended its participation in the agreement after an attack on a Russian naval base in Crimea last fall, only to rejoin it later. Russian missiles have repeatedly hit Ukrainian grain-export facilities. Ukraine has struck one of Russia’s largest ports with naval drones, disrupting shipments of grain and oil.
Moscow has said that a key reason for its withdrawal from the grain deal was that its own food and fertilizer exports were hampered by international sanctions. Western countries haven’t sanctioned those exports, but sanctions might have created obstacles to financing and shipping Russian agricultural products, U.N. officials have said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed a new U.N. grain deal proposal last week, saying that it didn’t contain guarantees for Russia.
The U.S. has been in talks with Turkey, Ukraine and Kyiv’s neighbors to increase the use of alternative export routes for Ukrainian grain, involving increasing capacity for Ukraine to export four million tons of grain a month via the Danube River by October. Much of the grain would be sent down the river and via the Black Sea to nearby ports in Romania and shipped onward to other destinations.
Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has maintained close connections with both Moscow and Kyiv. Erdogan has kept in contact with Putin during the war, and Turkey hasn’t joined Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, becoming a trading partner and a logistical hub for Russian trade, including goods and energy.
Turkish companies have exported tens of millions of dollars of machinery, electronics, spare parts and other items that Russia needs for its military. Moscow, meanwhile, has agreed to delay payments for Russian gas imports, helping to alleviate Turkey’s economic crisis.
Russia is Turkey’s top supplier of oil and natural gas, and the two countries have deepened cooperation in nuclear energy with a $20 billion Russian-owned nuclear plant on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. On Monday, Putin said the plant’s first unit would be launched next year.
Turkey, however, has also kept close connections with Ukraine, supplying it with combat drones and backing its ambitions to join NATO. Erdogan also angered the Kremlin after five Ukrainian military commanders who had been held in Turkey since Russia released them in a prisoner exchange last year returned to Ukraine in July. Moscow said it violated the terms of a deal that was brokered by Turkey.
On Monday, the two presidents also discussed Russia’s gas exports to Turkey and increasing trade in local currencies, one of Moscow’s goals as it seeks to delink its economy from the West.
Elvan Kivilcim contributed to this article.
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