Russia finally lets some ships through under ‘grain deal’

Russia has agreed to resume inbound inspections of ships sailing to two of the three ports covered by the Black Sea Grain Initiative, extended until mid-July, a Ukrainian official said on Friday.

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"By the morning of 19 May, it became known that Russia had agreed to resume inspection of the incoming fleet to the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk, but refused to inspect ships heading to the port of Pivdennyi," Yuriy Vaskov, deputy minister of community development, territories and infrastructure Yuriy, said in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The vessels that have been waiting in the queue the longest should be the first to be inspected, Mr Vaskov added. If they pass the inspection, such vessels could be in Ukraine's ports the day after tomorrow.

Currently, 62 vessels are in line waiting for inspection, some of them for several months.

The Ukrainian official confirmed that since the Barbados-flagged DSM Capella with 30,000 tonnes of corn left the Chornomorsk port for Turkiye on 17 May, no other vessel participating in the initiative has been in Ukrainian ports so far.

He reminded that Ukraine is ready to export six million tonnes of agricultural products per month from the three ports, but since November, Russia has been trying to suspend the ‘grain deal’.

Less than one million tonnes of grain has so far been exported from Ukraine this month, compared to 2.7 million tonnes in April.

The grain deal, struck in July 2022, provided for limited exports of Ukrainian grain through three Black Sea ports, which had been blocked since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has claimed that the current grain deal does not guarantee its agricultural exports, allegedly blocked by Western sanctions in response to its aggression against Ukraine.

Moscow threatened to pull out of the agreement if its demands were not met, but on Wednesday, Turkish president Recep Erdogan announced that Russia had agreed not to withdraw for another two months.