Last ship leaves Ukrainian port as Black Sea grain deal expiry looms

The UN awaits Putin's decision on extending the grain deal which ends on Monday

TK Majestic, carrying grain under the UN's Black Sea Grain Initiative. The Black Sea grain deal is due to expire on Monday. Reuters
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The last ship to sail under a UN-brokered deal that covers the safe transit of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea left the port of Odesa on Sunday, a day before the agreement with Russia expires.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that the deal was to be extended, but on Saturday the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin told his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa that commitments to remove obstacles to Russian food and fertiliser exports had yet to be fulfilled.

A UN spokesman said on Friday that Secretary General Antonio Guterres was waiting for a response from Mr Putin on a proposal to extend the deal.

Russia has not agreed to register any new ships in the last month, and the current deal expires on Monday unless an agreement can be reached to extend it.

A Reuters witness and report that the last ship under the current deal has left port.

Swift solution?

The deal was initially struck by the UN and Turkey a year ago, but Russia has threatened to quit several times. It was previously extended in May.

One area of contention is the reconnection of the Russian agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to the SWIFT international payment network.

The bank was excluded by the EU in June last year, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but the EU said back in May it was not considering reinstating Russian banks.

Ukraine and Russia are among the world's top grain exporters and much of their produce is destined for the world's low-income countries.

According to the UN, Ukraine's grain exports amount to 45 million tonnes a year. Since 2022, it's estimated that 47 million people have been at risk of severe hunger due to soaring global food prices, partly related to the invasion of Ukraine.

Updated: July 16, 2023, 11:09 AM