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Russia has rejoined a major grain deal, just days after pulling out

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The UN estimates the deal has indirectly prevented about 100 million people from falling into extreme poverty.
Russia has rejoined a major grain deal, just days after pulling out

Russia resumed its participation in an agreement that allows the safe passage of Ukrainian exports on Wednesday local time, less than a week after pulling out of the deal.

The agreement, which allows grain from Ukraine to be exported via sea, was only brokered in July, and also involves the UN and Türkiye.

Here’s why it matters.

Background

After invading Ukraine in February, Russia put a blockade on Ukraine’s ports in the Black Sea, which significantly impeded its capacity to export grain. About 90% of Ukraine’s grain exports are conducted via sea.

In July, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal that would allow Ukraine’s grain to be exported through the Black Sea, called the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The deal was constructed with the help of the UN and Türkiye, with the latter occupying the southern border of the Black Sea.

The timeline

A Russian delegation told the UN on Saturday that it would indefinitely suspend its part in the agreement, citing safety concerns for vessels transporting exports through the Black Sea.

It followed reports of a drone attack on Russian ships in Crimea, a Russian-annexed peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea.

On Wednesday, the Russian delegation said it would rejoin the agreement.

Why’s it important?

Ukraine and Russia produce nearly a third of the world’s wheat, which is a critical component of many staple foods, such as bread and pasta.

Prior to this deal being signed, Ukraine’s capacity to export grain was severely compromised due to the Russian-imposed blockade.

The UN estimates the deal has indirectly prevented about 100 million people from falling into extreme poverty.

Global reaction

A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he “warmly welcomes” Russia’s resumed participation in the deal.

Guterres delayed an international trip to focus on the issue earlier this week, and was said to be engaging in talks to end the suspension of the deal.

Earlier in the week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of “weaponising food” by suspending the agreement, and “exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity”.

What’s next?

The deal will expire in the second half of November.

There is still an option for it to be extended, but it must be signed off by all parties, including Russia.

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