President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused Western countries of distorting the expired Black Sea grain deal for their own interests, but said he would immediately return to the deal if all of Russia’s conditions were met.
On Monday, Moscow abandoned a deal it had made a year ago allowing Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports despite a war to ease a global food crisis.
It said a parallel memorandum signed at the same time, aimed at facilitating its own grain and fertilizer exports in the face of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, had been ignored.
“Initially, the essence, the meaning of the grain deal has a huge humanitarian significance,” Putin said.
“The West has completely diluted and distorted this essence, and instead of helping countries in real need, the West used the grain deal for political blackmail, and moreover … a device for enriching speculators in the grain market.”
He reiterated Moscow’s position that it would return to the accord as soon as the West met its five key demands, which Putin enumerated:
– re-entry of the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) into the SWIFT payment system;
– resumption of exports of agricultural machinery and spare parts to Russia;
Removal of restrictions on insurance and access to ports for Russian ships and cargo;
– Restoration of the damaged ammonia export pipeline from Togliatti, Russia, to Odessa, Ukraine;
– Unblocking of accounts and financial activities of Russian fertilizer companies.
Putin said, “If all these conditions are met, which we agreed upon earlier – this is not something I have just invented – but as soon as they are met, we will immediately return to the agreement.”
Earlier, his Defense Ministry said that Moscow would now consider all ships headed to Ukrainian ports as potential carriers of military cargo.
In addition, Russia’s Foreign Ministry gave the United Nations, which had mediated the grain agreement with Turkey, three months to implement the terms of the memorandum if it wanted Russia to return to the grain agreement.
Moscow says it has launched a “special military operation” to prevent Western countries from using Ukraine to threaten Russia’s security, a charge Ukraine and its Western allies dismiss as a baseless pretext for a war of conquest.
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