Russia not sure on Black Sea grain deal extension

STORY: Seven cargo ships left Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Thursday (November 3).

That's according to the country’s infrastructure ministry.

It said the vessels, loaded with 290,000 tonnes of food products, were headed towards European and Asian countries.

The move comes after Russia resumed participating in the Black Sea grain deal following a four-day suspension.

Brokered by the United Nations, the pact frees Ukraine’s food shipments from a Russian blockade of its ports.

However Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday (November 3) that Moscow had not committed to staying in the deal beyond its current expiry date of November 19.

"Certainly, the discussion about prolonging the grain deal has to be continued. The official period has not yet run out. You heard yesterday the president's statement, but by November 19, we need to provide an overall assessment of the effectiveness of the deal’s implementation and how the parameters of the deal were realised, before we decide whether we continue.”

Peskov's comments came after a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking in Jordan, he urged the United Nations to uphold its part of the agreement.

In the statement, he called on the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to fulfil obligations he agreed in the initiative. Lavrov said that he hoped the countries maintaining obstacles to Russia’s fertiliser and grain exports also realized their responsibilities.

Russian agricultural exports do not fall explicitly under sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and others.

But Moscow says they are badly hindered by the restrictions imposed on its financial, logistics and insurance sectors.

The initiative - brokered by Turkey and the United Nations - was agreed in July to run for 120 days.