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Russia Extends Black Sea Grain Deal

The Kremlin says Russia is extending a deal that allows Ukraine to export grain through its Black Sea ports for another 60 days.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's comments on March 17 come one day before the deal was set to expire. The pact can be extended only with Russia's agreement. Moscow had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the deal, hinting that it might not approve an extension.

It was unclear when an agreement on the extension would be signed. The United Nations Office in Geneva said discussions were ongoing.

Before the Black Sea Grain Initiative was agreed upon in late July 2022, Ukraine and other countries accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon by blockading Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, and the United Nations reached the agreement, which also paved the way for Russian food and fertilizer to reach global markets. The shipments are monitored by a joint coordination center in Istanbul, including representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey.

The deal has enabled grain shipments to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other food to those countries, and Russia was the world's top exporter of fertilizer before it launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine last year in February.

The deal, which was first extended for four months on November 17, establishes a safe shipping corridor in the Black Sea and inspection procedures to address concerns that cargo vessels meant for grain might carry weapons or be used to launch attacks.

Last month, the United Nations food agency head warned that failure to renew the deal would be catastrophic as millions in Africa are on the cusp of famine.World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley said that the grain flows under the deal were still falling well short of the needs of poorer countries.

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By RFE/RL

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