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The Black Sea Grain Initiative Must Be Extended

(FILE) Vessels wait for inspection under United Nation's Black Sea Grain Initiative in Turkey.

Russia may walk away from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, one of the only areas of cooperation between Moscow and Kiev after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Black Sea Initiative Must Be Extended
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One of the only areas of cooperation between Moscow and Kiev after Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is the Black Sea Grain Initiative, or BSGI. Brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye and signed by Russia and Ukraine in July 2022, the BSGI allows the export of grain and fertilizer from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports. To implement the deal, a Joint Coordination Centre was established in Istanbul, made up of representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the United Nations.

State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel called the initiative “a vital tool to combat global food insecurity and stabilize food prices. Over nine months, the initiative has moved 28 million tons of food onto the global market.” The UN has emphasized that the grain coming from Ukrainian ports benefits people in need, helps calm markets, and aids in limiting food price inflation.

A recent communique by the agricultural ministers of the G7 countries recognized the “critical importance” of the BSGI, saying: “We strongly support the extension, full implementation, and expansion of the BSGI.” They also called on Russia “to stop threatening global food supplies and allow the Black Sea Grain Initiative to operate at its maximum potential and indefinitely.”

Instead, Russia has indicated it may walk away from the initiative. Russian inspectors in Istanbul have stopped registering outbound vessels for required inspection plans. They have also engaged in slowdowns of inspections leading to a backlog of outgoing and incoming vessels.

After the G7 meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Russia is again blocking Ukraine’s grain from reaching the world, spiking food prices for people everywhere. For the last few days, no ships have gotten out of Ukraine, and more than 50 have been blocked from going in to load up. Countries around the world depend on this life-saving grain. Russia is breaking its promises to them.”

In addition, Russia has complained that it has not received the benefits it expected to get for its own exports after it signed the BSGI and has indicated it may not extend the deal beyond its scheduled expiration date of May 18.

State Department Spokesperson Patel said, “As the G7 foreign ministers made clear in their communique ... Russia must stop using the world’s food as a weapon in its war on Ukraine and allow the Black Sea Grain Initiative to operate at its maximum potential. Ukrainian grain should reach the world unimpeded.”