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‘Position of strength, not concession’ prompted Moscow’s return to grain deal, Ukraine says

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, visits Moffett Air National Guard Base, California, Sept. 2, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Duane Ramos)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on November 3 that Kyiv had not made any commitments that go beyond the terms of the Black Sea Grain Initiative agreed in July to persuade Moscow to resume its participation in the deal.

Russia suspended participation in the UN-brokered deal on October 29 after what it said was an attack on vessels from its Black Sea fleet but resumed its participation on November 2.

In announcing Russia rejoining the grain deal, President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had received assurances that Ukraine would not use the humanitarian corridors to attack Russian forces.

Putin warned that Russia reserves the right to withdraw again if Kyiv breaks its word.

In a November 3 statement on Facebook, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko made clear Kyiv had offered nothing new to Russia to ensure it returned to the deal, which is intended to free up Ukrainian food exports following Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“Our state has not undertaken any new commitments that go beyond those already existing in the grain agreement,” Nikolenko said. “Moscow has returned to the grain deal thanks to the active diplomacy of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In coordination with Ukraine, they found words that Putin understood. It was a position of strength, not a concession.

“Recall that within this agreement [in July] the parties committed to guarantee a safe and reliable functioning environment for the grain corridor. Ukraine has never put a grain route in danger.”

He said Ukraine was clearly adhering to the terms of the agreement.

“Ukraine did not use and did not plan to use the grain corridor for military purposes,” Nikolenko said.

Separately, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said that seven ships carrying agricultural products left Ukrainian Black Sea ports on November 3.

The vessels were loaded with 290,000 tons of food products and were headed toward European and Asian countries, the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on November 3 that Russia had not yet decided whether to extend the Black Sea grain deal, which expires on November 19.

Guterres, meanwhile, said the Black Sea Grain Initiative is making a difference.

“As of today, 10 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs have been shipped through the Black Sea corridor. It has taken just three months to reach this milestone,” Guterres told journalists.

“The initiative is working. It is our collective responsibility to keep it working smoothly,” Guterres said.