Russia Threatens to End Black Sea Grain Deal Over Western Export Ban

Ukrainian grain awaiting export at Odesa (Charles Michel)
Ukrainian grain awaiting export aboard a bulker at Odesa (Charles Michel)

Published Apr 23, 2023 9:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

Russia will end its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative in retaliation if the G7 group of nations decides to tighten restrictions on exports to the Russian market, according to a top-ranked Russian security official. 

The G7 has already imposed strict restrictions on trade with Russia, including sanctions on Russian banks and import bans on (most) Russian energy commodities, but a new plan reported by Kyodo News and Bloomberg would go even further. Current export restrictions are aimed at items that benefit the Russian elite (like luxury goods) or could be used by the Russian military. According to Bloomberg, the measures under discussion would end this targeted approach and repace it with a near-total ban on virtually all exports to Russia. 

The leaders of the G7 (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the EU) will meet in Hiroshima in mid-May to discuss the proposal.

The idea of an enhanced export ban was not warmly received in Russia. In an profanity-laden statement issued Sunday, former Russian President and current Russian security council member Dmitry Medvedev said that a total ban on G7 exports to Russia would be met with a reciprocal ban on Russian exports to the G7. 

In addition, he added, Russia would target the food exports of a non-G7 nation, Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion in February 2022, Russia has blockaded Ukraine's Black Sea ports, refusing entry to all ro/ro, containerized and liquid bulk cargoes. In August, under heavy diplomatic pressure, Moscow agreed to a narrow exception for bulk grain shipments from three terminals near Odesa. However, the grain deal is up for renewal shortly, and Russia has threatened repeatedly to withdraw from it and reimpose a full blockade. Medvedev tied Russia's continued cooperation to continued G7 exports.

"The idea of ??the idiots from the G7 about a total ban on the export of goods to our country . . . In this case, the grain deal – and many other things they need – will be terminated," Medvedev said.