(Bloomberg) -- Russia said that talks on extending the safe-corridor deal that allows Ukraine to ship crops out of its Black Sea ports have been complicated by damage to a key ammonia pipeline.
The pipeline is “integral” to Russia’s involvement in the deal, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Interfax. “This complicates things in terms of continuing the deal,” Peskov said, without elaborating.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative is set for renewal on July 17, and Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the accord. Signed last July, the agreement opened three ports in Ukraine that had been blocked by Russia’s invasion. While exports have frequently been disrupted, Ukraine still managed to ship more than 30 million tons of agricultural products via the corridor. The deal was credited with helping bring down global food-commodity costs from the record highs reached after the war broke out.
The ammonia pipeline, which runs from Togliatti near the Volga river in Russia, to Ukraine’s Odesa port, has been a key subject in the grain talks. Ukraine reported that Russian shelling damaged the pipeline in the Kharkiv region, underscoring the vulnerability of vital infrastructure as fighting continues. Russia told the Joint Coordination Centre overseeing the grain deal that it would limit ships going to the port of Pivdennyi as long as ammonia is not exported, according to the UN.
The pipeline was shut after the invasion, but Moscow has repeatedly demanded it be re-opened even as a new port in Taman, opposite Crimea, will soon replace it. The facility, built by Togliattiazot JSC, should begin operations this year. Ukraine has said it will consider reopening the pipeline if Russia agrees to a comprehensive prisoner swap.
Should Russia exit the deal, that would considerably slow the pace of Ukraine’s exports. Ukraine would only be able to ship via rail, road and smaller river ports — which in itself is a challenge, after some of its European neighbors banned purchases of the country’s grain until mid-September.
--With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska.
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