Putin says Russia may quit Black Sea grain deal if demands not met

MOSCOW (Reuters): President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Russia was set to withdraw from a deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea unless its own demands are met, reaffirming Moscow’s tough stance ahead of the deal’s expiry next Monday.

Putin, in comments to Russian state television, also said the United Nations had so far failed to come up with a satisfactory solution to the issue and he denied having received any letter containing proposals from the U.N. Secretary General.

“We can suspend our participation in the deal, and if everyone once again says that all the promises made to us will be fulfilled, then let them fulfil this promise. We will immediately rejoin this deal,” Putin said.

A Kremlin spokesman later clarified that Russia had not taken a final decision on whether to exit the grain deal.

The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative with Russia and Ukraine in July 2022 to help alleviate a global food crisis that worsened after Moscow sent forces into Ukraine and blockaded Ukrainian ports.

To convince Putin to agree to the deal, U.N. officials also agreed to help Russia get its food and fertilizer exports to foreign markets – something Moscow says they have failed to do.

While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments.

Sources told Reuters that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had written to Putin suggesting that Moscow allow the deal to continue for several months to give the European Union time to connect a subsidiary of the Russian Agriculture Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the international payment network SWIFT.

Putin said on Thursday he had not received any such message.