UN asks Putin to extend Black Sea grain deal for access to SWIFT
Russia has threatened to pull out of the grain deal, which will expire on soon since its requests to ship its grain and fertilizer overseas have yet to be addressed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Reuters, to prolong a pact permitting secure Black Sea grain exports from Ukraine, in exchange for joining a unit of Russia's agricultural bank to the SWIFT international payment system.
Russia has threatened to pull out of the grain contract, which is set to expire on Monday since its requests to ship its grain and fertilizer overseas have yet to be addressed. The final two ships traveling under the Black Sea accord are presently loading goods at the Ukrainian port of Odesa to meet the deadline.
The reconnection of the Russian agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT is a crucial demand from Moscow. The EU cut it off in June 2022 when sanctioning Russia for the Ukraine war. In May, an EU official stated that the EU was not contemplating reintroducing Russian banks. However, according to three individuals involved with the negotiations, the EU is considering linking to SWIFT a subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank to allow expressly for grain and fertiliser transactions.
Sources familiar with Guterre's deal told Reuters that Russia would allow the deal to continue for multiple months until the EU reconnects the bank subsidiary to SWIFT.
According to a UN spokesperson, Guterres issued a letter to Putin on Tuesday recommending a path forward to better allow Russian food and fertilizer exports while ensuring sustained Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian grain.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters that "The objective is to remove hurdles affecting financial transactions through the Russian Agricultural Bank, a major concern expressed by the Russian Federation, and simultaneously allow for the continued flow of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea."
Dujarric did not elaborate but explained that Guterres was on the issue and open to communication with Russia.
Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey signed an UN-brokered agreement on July 22 to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor for ships transporting food and fertilizers from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. The deal was extended on March 18 for 60 day period instead of the 120 days originally specified in the agreement.
The grain export deal has helped ease the global food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine and the Western sanctions against Russia.
While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Moscow says restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments.
According to the United Nations, more than 24.1 million tonnes of grain have been exported under the agreement until March. But the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed in October 2022 that only a quarter of the grain exported under the BSGI is going to low-income countries.
Agriculture ministers of the G7 member states considered on April 23 that the deal is vital to the "EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes" and announced their support for extending and expanding the deal.
Most of the grain leaving Ukraine's ports is heading to the European Union instead of developing countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in September 2022, as the world's poorest nations bear the brunt of the food crisis most.
Putin has since offered to deliver to poor African countries Russian grain free of charge.