Russia’s conditions to revive the Black Sea grain deal amount to “blackmail,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told national news agency Ukrinform on Monday.
The deal “must be restored,” but not “at the expense of blackmail and fulfilling Russia’s whims,” he said.
Russia withdrew from the initiative in July, nearly a year after it was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations to guarantee the safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea and help facilitate Russian exports of grain and fertilizer. Its withdrawal has caused spikes in wheat prices and fears about food security worldwide.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart that Moscow will be ready to consider rejoining the deal “as soon as all the agreements on lifting restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products are fully implemented.”
Russia claims it was forced to pull out of the deal and that promised guarantees made about its own agricultural and fertilizer exports had not been upheld.
In his interview with Ukrinform Monday, Kuleba said “there were no legal or political grounds for the Russians to withdraw from the agreement,” adding that if Ukraine “makes concessions now,” Russia will “come back and then once again withdraw a month later to put forward new terms.”
“It’s just classic blackmail,” he said.
Kuleba claimed Russia cannot be trusted, so it is necessary to develop alternative maritime export lanes, which can be accomplished by Ukraine with strengthened security.
“We have already shown that it works,” he said. “We have already shown that there are countries expressing interest in helping us organize these lanes on a stable basis.”
Turkey relations: Following his meeting with Putin on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ukraine needs to “soften its approach” to revive the grain deal “in order to be able to take common steps with Russia.”
Kuleba told Ukrinform that Ukraine and Turkey have “trusting relations” and he anticipates that discussions will be held between the Ukrainian and Turkish presidents about the grain deal.