GENEVA — The United Nations continued on Tuesday to try to broker a deal that would allow Ukraine to keep exporting its grain past Russian naval vessels blockading the Black Sea, after Moscow said it would extend the agreement only for 60 days, rather than the 120 sought by Kyiv.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been a rare example of cooperation between the warring countries, allowing Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest exporters of grain and other food crops, to revive shipments that stalled when Russia launched its full-scale invasion a year ago. When the deal was first signed last July, the United Nations said it would help to alleviate hunger faced by millions of people.
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said on Twitter on Monday that Russia’s stance would contradict the initial agreement, which said that any extension to the deal would last a minimum of 120 days.
The agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, was renewed for 120 days in November, with an agreement reached three days before its previous expiration date. It is set to expire again on Saturday.
Talks about a further extension began in Geneva on Monday, and further talks were taking place on Tuesday. Russian officials had indicated that they were not satisfied because Moscow has faced difficulties in exporting its own agricultural products.
Sergei Vershinin, a deputy foreign minister, said in a statement after talks with U.N. officials, which he described as “comprehensive and frank,” that Moscow’s stance “will be determined upon the tangible progress on normalization of our agricultural exports, not in words, but in deeds. Russia “does not object to” an extension of the deal, “but only for 60 days,” Mr. Vershinin said.
The United Nations said that it had taken note of Russia’s 60-day proposal but was committed to preserving “the integrity” of the original 120-day deal. Consultations continue “with all parties, at various levels,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N.’s aid coordination agency, told reporters in Geneva.
The U.N. has reported that the agreement has allowed more than 23 million tons of grain to reach world markets. The deal helped to stabilize — and then lower — global food prices that had soared after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
The agreement also provided for unobstructed exports of agricultural products and fertilizers to world markets, a critical step toward preventing a calamitous decline in global food production at a time when climate disasters are aggravating shortages that are causing millions of people to live in acute hunger.
The grain deal was also critical for Ukraine, given the importance of its agricultural exports to its economy and the fact that overland alternatives for grain exports had proved unsatisfactory.
“Last year, the heroic efforts of our farmers and all workers in the agricultural sector made it possible to preserve Ukrainian agricultural production and Ukraine’s global role as a guarantor of food security,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in an overnight speech.
Mr. Vershinin, airing the Kremlin’s complaints, said that while Ukraine’s food exports were running smoothly, Western sanctions had compromised Russian agricultural exports. The exemptions to those sanctions announced by the United States, Britain and the European Union, he said, were “essentially inactive.”
Russia has pushed for months to resume exporting ammonia through a pipeline across Ukraine, to the Black Sea port of Odessa. But Kyiv, in exchange for its consent to that proposal, has countered with a prisoner-of-war swap.
In the meantime, despite Western sanctions exemptions for their agricultural goods, Russian companies said they have run into problems of over-compliance by Western banks, insurance providers and shipping companies that have continued to refuse to work with them.