US presses, but Russia reluctant on Ukraine grain deal

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The American ambassador to the United Nations reiterated the United States’ “steadfast” support for Ukraine for as long as it takes at a meeting Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv and said global food security depends on renewing the U.N-brokered deal allowing Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also announced an additional $25 million to help Ukrainians survive the coming winter as Russian forces bombard their infrastructure. She also discussed ways to ensure accountability for the war crimes and atrocities perpetrated on the Ukrainian people, the U.S. Mission said.

Thomas-Greenfield told farmers at a grain storage facility that she saw Ukraine “as the breadbasket of the world” and that extending a wartime deal to facilitate Black Sea shipments of Ukrainian grain is a priority for the U.N.

“This (war) really has had an impact on the entire global food market,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Ukraine and Russia both are major global exporters of foods like wheat, barley and sunflower oil, and the war has caused global food shortages and higher prices.

But Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Andrey Rudenko, said Tuesday that the Kremlin has not yet decided whether to extend its agreement with Turkey and the U.N.

“We still have time. We are looking at how this deal is being implemented, following the restoration of our participation,” Rudenko said. “We are very dissatisfied with how the Russian part is being implemented.”

Russia briefly suspended its participation in the deal last week, alleging a Ukrainian drone attack on its Black Sea fleet in Crimea on Oct. 29. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.N. trade chief Rebeca Grynspan, who is overseeing the Russian side of the grain deal, told the U.N. Security Council last week that Ukraine and Russia provide around 30% of the world’s exported wheat and barley, 20% of its maize, and over 50% of its sunflower oil. Russia is also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizers, accounting for 15% share of global exports.

Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements on July 22 for a Black Sea corridor that cleared the way for the export of grain out of three Ukrainian ports, as well as for shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer. The deal, which established an inspection and monitoring system, will expire Nov. 19 unless it is renewed.

Russia’s U.N. representatives said last month that a renewed agreement must allow for increased Russian exports of food and fertilizer. Although international sanctions did not target those goods, shipping and insurance companies have been reluctant to deal with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Rudenko said Moscow “has not yet seen progress” in the implementation of the deal’s provisions regarding Russian food and fertilizer.

Ukrainian farmers told Thomas-Greenfield they wanted milled wheat to be part of any renewed deal. Currently, only unmilled grains are covered. Sergii Kurdytskyi, executive director for Gospodar, a grain and dairy cooperative, told The Associated Press that production and market confidence would suffer if the grain export deal does not continue.

The grain initiative was a rare example of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian ports were blockaded and mined early in the war, but more than 10 million tons of grain have left the Ukrainian ports for destinations in Africa, Asia and Europe since the Black Sea corridor was established in July.

Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, wrote on Twitter that seven more ships were to berth Tuesday in Ukrainian ports, to be loaded with 140,000 tons of grain. But his deputy, Yuri Vaskov, charged that Russia has slowed down the pace of shipments.

“Today we have returned to the same problems. Joint inspections have resumed. All four parties participate in the inspection. But now they are planned on average only 12 per day, of which eight or nine are actually completed,” Vaslov told the Ukrainian news outlet LIGA.net. “The need is 25-30 per day.”

According to the Joint Coordination Center, the Turkey-based body established to oversee the inspections of participating ships, 77 vessels were awaiting permission to enter Ukrainian ports while 15 other ships loaded with food were preparing for checks in Turkish waters.

During her one-day trip, Thomas-Greenfield also visited a center for displaced people in the town of Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv, where she announced the $25 million in additional U.S. assistance.

After visiting a forensics laboratory where evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces is being collected, Thomas-Greenfield said: “I have come away from this experience knowing that this war will only end when those who committed these atrocities are held accountable. And this documentation is what is going to do that.”

“The one and only way to end this war is for Russia to pull their troops out of Ukraine,” she added.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine and on the food crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/food-crisis