Russia Pulls Out of Black Sea Grain Deal

The Kremlin says Russia won't rejoin unless obstacles to Russian agricultural exports are removed

Russia announced Monday that it was suspending its participation in a deal that was signed last year to facilitate the export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Another aspect of the deal was that the UN agreed to help remove obstacles to the export of Russian food and fertilizer, and Russia has said enough hasn’t been done in that regard. The Kremlin said that Moscow would only rejoin the initiative if more of its demands are met.

“When the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented, Russia will immediately return to the implementation of the deal,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

US and other Western sanctions technically have exemptions for Russian agricultural goods, but they make overall shipping from Russia more difficult. One of Russia’s demands is to reconnect the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT payment system.

In a statement on Russia’s withdrawal from the deal, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres listed ways he helped facilitate more Russian shipments and pointed to a rise in Russian fertilizer and wheat exports, but he did acknowledge there are still obstacles.

“I am aware of some obstacles that remained in the foreign trade of Russian food and fertilizer products,” Guterres said. “This is precisely why I sent a letter to President Putin with a new proposal to keep the Black Sea Initiative alive.”

In the letter to Putin, Guterres said that since the deal was signed last year, “Russian grain trade has reached high export volumes and fertilizer markets are stabilizing with Russian exports nearing full recovery, as stated by the Russian Union of Grain Exporters and Russian Fertilizer Producers Association.”

Russia said its suspension of the deal means that it can no longer guarantee the security of ships carrying grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision means “the recall of maritime navigation security guarantees, the discontinuation of the maritime humanitarian corridor [and] the reinstatement of the ‘temporarily dangerous area’ regime in the north-western Black Sea.”

Russia established safe corridors as part of the deal due to the heavy mining of Ukraine’s ports. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he wanted to continue the deal without Russia’s participation and said shipping companies were ready to do so as well.

“We were approached by companies that own ships. They said that they are ready, if Ukraine gives it, and Turkey continues to let it through, then everyone is ready to continue supplying grain,” Zelensky said.

The deal was brokered by both the UN and Turkey and established a monitoring center in Istanbul. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish officials will speak with their Russian counterparts in an effort to restore the initiative. He said that overall, the deal was a “diplomatic success” and that over 33 million tonnes of grain were exported in the past year.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.