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GENEVA: Russia warned Wednesday that “no progress” had been made towards meeting the conditions it has set for extending a Ukraine grain exports deal aimed at easing the global food crisis.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been in place since last July and allows Ukrainian grains to be exported after they were blocked amid the conflict with Russia.

The exports via the Black Sea are vital for world food security.

Ukraine calls for global pressure on Russia over grain deal

But Moscow has repeatedly threatened to block the continuation of the agreement – which is up for its third renewal – if obstacles to a parallel agreement on unhindered Russian food and fertiliser exports are not removed.

“So far we don’t see any progress,” Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and a former deputy foreign minister, told reporters.

While these products are supposed to be exempt from the sanctions slapped on Russia by Kyiv’s allies, Moscow says the problems are related to secondary effects from sanctions imposed on shipping and insurance companies as well as banks.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin presenting a “way forward” on extending and improving the grain deal, his office said Monday, after he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York.

During a briefing with the UN correspondents’ association, Gatilov said Moscow appreciated “the efforts of the UN” and believed the UN was “trying to do its best.”

“But what we hear until now is only promises.”

“The UN acknowledges that there are problems that should be resolved,” he said, adding that the world body was in discussions with Washington, Brussels and others.

“I don’t know whether they will be able to achieve sufficient progress in the time left.”

Moscow has laid out a list of conditions for the extension of the grain deal, including allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to reconnect to the Swift payment system.

Supplies of agricultural machinery, spare parts and services also have to be resumed, and obstacles to granting Russian vessels insurance and access to foreign ports must be lifted, it says.

Moscow’s conditions also include the resumption of ammonia exports for fertilisers through a major pipeline that goes through Ukraine.

“As of today, we regret to state that no real progress was reached in resolving these problems,” Gatilov said.

The current agreement lasts until May 18.

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