Russia has threatened to end the international agreement on grain exports from Ukraine.
During a visit to Turkey, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized that Russia would not extend the agreement without facilitating its own agricultural exports. “If there is still no movement in dismantling barriers to the export of Russian fertilizer and grain, we will consider whether we need the agreement,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by the state news agency TASS.
If the West does not give in, Russia could resume the blockade of the Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Addressing the West, Lavrov added: “Let them continue to ship the relevant goods from Ukraine overland by rail or by river.” Russia will then work with Turkey and Qatar to sell its agricultural goods on the world market. The plans for this have already been discussed.
Agreement runs until next month
The current agreement expires without an extension in the middle of next month. After the start of its war of aggression against Ukraine in February last year, Russia had blocked the Ukrainian Black Sea ports for months, thereby preventing grain exports. Ukraine is one of the most important exporters worldwide. As a result, there were fears of a hunger crisis, especially in poorer countries.
An agreement was then negotiated in the summer, mediated by Turkey and the United Nations. Since then, according to Turkish information, more than 27 million tons of Ukrainian grain have entered the world market. The agreement, originally concluded for 120 days, has been extended twice, the last time only for 60 days. Russia has repeatedly threatened to scrap the agreement. This is also justified by the fact that the country’s own exports of grain and fertilizer are being hampered by western sanctions.
Türkiye worried about possible escalation
At a press conference after meeting Lavrov, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu expressed concern that the war between Russia and Ukraine could intensify in the spring. The Turkish government will continue to try to end the war through negotiations, Cavusoglu said.
In response to questions from journalists, Lavrov was in principle open to talks about an end to the war. However, negotiations must be based on taking Russian interests into account, he said.
After the talks with Cavusoglu, a meeting with the Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also on Lavrov’s agenda.