Ukraine and Russia agreed on Saturday to extend a crucial deal allowing Ukrainian grain exports safe passage through the Black Sea, though the terms of the extension were disputed by the two countries.
Known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the extension was announced by the United Nations in collaboration with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country helped broker the deal. The initiative is a key agenda to help combat worldwide hunger, as it allows for the "safe navigation for the exports of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia, from designated Ukrainian seaports," the U.N. said.
More than 25 million metric tons of food have been moved around the world to help combat the global food shortage since the initiative began, the U.N. added.
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However, like most things between Ukraine and Russia, the details of the extension were fraught and tension-filled. While Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov insisted the deal had been extended for 120 days, Russian Foreign Ministry officials told Russian news agency Tass that the extension was only agreed to for 60 days.
Neither the U.N. nor Erdogan confirmed the length of the extension in their announcement, and BBC News noted that "Russia has warned it will not allow the deal to go on longer unless sanctions against Moscow are softened."
The Black Sea Grain Initiative was first agreed to in July 2022 as part of a global collaborative effort. Amidst growing tensions towards the end of 2022, a last-minute extension was agreed to for another 120 days that November to bring the deal into 2023.
Russia had previously walked back any talks of an extension, but agreed to table a deal after international condemnation, with President Biden calling the decision "purely outrageous" and a move that would "increase starvation."
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