Russia and Ukraine have agreed to extend the grain deal. This was announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday. It was initially unclear until when it will be extended. Without an agreement, the agreement would have expired on March 19.
Russia also confirmed the extension, but with a time limit. Reports that the agreement had been extended by another 120 days were not correct, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The Ministry thus denied a message from the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Olexander Kubrakow, who had commented accordingly on Twitter.
"We have stated several times - both the Foreign Ministry and Russia's permanent representative to the UN - that the Russian side has informed all parties to the agreement that it will extend the deal by 60 days," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. This was communicated not only verbally but also in writing to all sides.
Worries about hunger crisis in poorer countries
Ukraine and Russia are important suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Before the war began, Russia was also the world's largest exporter of fertilizers. The disruption of these supplies following the Russian invasion in February 2022 drove up food prices around the world and fueled fears of a hunger crisis in poorer countries.
"Following our talks with both sides, we have reached the extension of the agreement, which was due to expire on March 19," Erdogan said at a ceremony opening a facility in Canakkale, western Turkey. He thanked Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations for their efforts to uphold the deal, which he described as "crucial to the stability of the world's food supply." More than 800 ships have so far transported 25 million tons of grain under the deal, said the Turkish head of state.
Easier export for Russian fertilizers
In addition, there was an agreement with Russia to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizers. Russia has repeatedly threatened to scrap the agreements, citing, among other things, that its own exports of grain and fertilizer would be further hampered by Western sanctions.