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Doubts remain over Black Sea grain deal, as renewal deadline draws closer

The Ukranian flag on a boat in the Black Sea.
The Ukranian flag on a boat in the Black Sea. Copyright Andrew Kravchenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Andrew Kravchenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Isabel da Silva
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The agreement was negotiated by the United Nations between the warring countries, Russia and Ukraine.

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With just a week to go until the expiration of the deal allowing Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, uncertainty still remains over whether Moscow will back down on its threat not to extend the export agreement agreed with Kyiv.

Russia has previously said that poor countries receive "no more than 3%" of the approximately 30 million tonnes of Ukrainian cereals and other foodstuffs exported since July 2022 under the agreement.

However, the European Commission has rejected this claim.

"Russia, even though it is claiming that the deal is profiting Europeans or Ukrainians, Russia is actually recording increased profits from their own trade in fertilisers and wheat and grains that they are also stealing from Ukraine," the Commission's foreign affairs spokesperson, Peter Stano, said in an interview with Euronews.

"So, anything that comes from Russia is basically just lies and lies connected to the illegal campaign against Ukraine."

Moscow is also demanding the lifting of barriers to its exports of other products, including one it considers crucial - the possibility for the Russian Agricultural Bank to once again be accepted into the SWIFT international payment system.

The initiative was negotiated by the UN which understands the concerns of Moscow.

"Russia has made some reasonable requests about what needs to happen in order to be able to have its exports on world markets," Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General told Euronews.

"And those exports are not under sanctions and should be allowed to reach world markets. But there have been different hurdles: bureaucratic hurdles, legal hurdles, hurdles involved, what decisions businesses are willing to take or are not willing to take."

Another mediator was Turkey, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited last Saturday, where he advocated an extension to the agreement.

If there is no deal, food prices are likely to rise and worsen the humanitarian crisis in some countries, such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

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