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Russia: No New Grain Deal Until West Meets Demands

President Vladimir Putin has said a deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea will not be restored until the West meets its obligations to facilitate Russian agricultural exports.

Putin made the statement after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the deal seen as vital for global food supplies, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on.

But Russia refused to extend the deal in July, complaining that an agreement promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertiliser had not been honoured. It said restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade even though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

Putin said that if those commitments were honoured, Russia could return to the deal “within the nearest days”.

He also said that Russia is close to finalising an agreement to provide free grain to six African countries.

The two leaders met in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, where the Russian President has a residence.

The meeting takes place against a backdrop of more than 18 months of war and Ukraine’s recent counter-offensive.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his defence minister Oleksii Reznikov would be replaced this week.

The job requires “new approaches”, Zelensky said, without elaborating. On Monday, Reznikov published a photo of his resignation letter.

Since Putin withdrew from the grain initiative, Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to renew arrangements that helped avoid a food crisis in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

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Tim Benton, a food security expert at the Chatham House think tank, said: “My gut feeling is that Putin recognises the leverage he has by using food as an economic weapon, and thus will fight for all he can get in terms of concessions on his wish-list.”

He said those may include Russia’s grains, or fertiliser exports, or wider issues.

Data from the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, which organised the Ukraine shipments, shows that 57% of the grain from Ukraine went to developing nations, with the top destination being China, which received nearly a quarter of the food.

Russia has repeatedly attacked the Odesa region, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port area.

On Monday, the Ukrainian air force said it intercepted 23 of 32 drones that targeted the Odea and Dnipropetrovsk regions, but did not specify damage caused by the drones that got through.

The Turkish President has maintained close ties to Putin during the 18-month war in Ukraine. Turkey has not joined Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion, emerging as a main trading partner and logistical hub for Russia’s overseas trade.

Nato member Turkey, however, has also supported Ukraine, sending arms, meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and backing Kyiv’s bid to join the alliance.

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Erdogan angered Moscow in July when he allowed five Ukrainian commanders to return home. The soldiers had been captured by Russia and handed over to Turkey on condition they remain there for the duration of the war.

Putin and Erdogan – authoritarian leaders who have both been in power for more than two decades – are said to have a close rapport, fostered in the wake of a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016 when Putin was the first major leader to offer his support.

The Sochi summit follows talks between the Russian and Turkish foreign ministers on Thursday, during which Russia handed over a list of actions that the West would have to take in order for Ukraine’s Black Sea exports to resume.

Erdogan has indicated sympathy for Putin’s position. In July, he said Putin had “certain expectations from Western countries” over the Black Sea deal and that it was “crucial for these countries to take action in this regard”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently sent Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov “concrete proposals” aimed at getting Russian exports to global markets and allowing the resumption of the Black Sea initiative. But Lavrov said Moscow was not satisfied with the letter.

Describing Turkey’s “intense” efforts to revive the agreement, Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan said it was a “process that tries to better understand Russia’s position and requests, and to meet them”.

By CityAM

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