It may be reversed by now (your article was dated Sept 16th).
And indeed, the UN expressed concerns on Sept 14th.
None of this answer is intended to support Putin's claims in their entirety, only to note that there were legitimate causes for concerns about EU regulations at some point. If there was any truth to any issue, be assured Putin has likely stretched it quite a bit in his pronouncements to maximize Russia's victimhood.
No, there wasn't a "threat of sanctions to developing countries", as stated in the closing end of the question and much nit-picked about in comments and answers. That's an, IMHO, slightly misleading phrasing and now unfortunately part of the question and its answers. However, the EU regulations, at a time, did contravene the stated EU goal of not impeding Russian fertilizer access to third parties (developing countries being most exposed to food insecurity). So, on the whole the question addresses a real concern, not merely one of Putin's numerous manufactured grievances.
I did not expect that to be that case when I started out answering this question, but even minimal research shows there was a problem, which the EU has now corrected.
What's the current situation?
EU U-turns on global transfer restrictions of Russian coal, fertilisers and other goods | Perspectives | Reed Smith LLP
On September 19, 2022, the EU published new FAQs which reverse the controversial expansion of restrictions imposed on certain coal, fertilizer and other Russian-origin goods on August 10, 2022. These FAQs clarify that restrictions on certain fertilizer and coal products (among others) do not include a ban on their transfer to third countries, and associated insurance and brokering arrangements.
But it seems to have indeed been a problem before, after a relatively recent update, first on Aug 10th, then Aug 29th:
On August 10, however, Brussels further tightened the sanctions by extending the ban to include European operators’ activities related to the transit of Russian fertilizers that were destined for third countries through the bloc’s administrative borders.
The European Commission on August 29 published an updated text of clarifications on the application of sanctions for fertilizers produced or exported from Russia, including potassium chloride, as well as complex fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Brussels’ new position now makes it impossible to supply Russian fertilizers to third countries, including Africa, that use European operators and infrastructure, along with the EU’s territory.
The reason cited was:
The Commission says the purpose of the increasing amount of sanctions is to significantly weaken Russia’s economic base by depriving it of its most important markets for its products and greatly limiting its ability to wage war.
The reasons for the reversal on Sept 19 are mentioned by a marine insurer, Skuld, based in Oslo, which provides the full text of some the actual EU communications:
However, the Union is committed to avoiding that its sanctions impact food and energy security of third countries around the globe, in particular of the least developed ones. In light of this commitment, which is clearly stated in recitals 11 and 12 of Council Regulation 2022/1269, the transfer to third countries of certain goods listed in Annex XXI and XXII should be allowed "to combat food and energy insecurity around the world" and "in order to avoid any potential negative consequences therefor" in third countries. This applies to the transfer to third countries, as well as financing or financial assistance related to such transfer, carried out by EU operators or via the EU territory (including in transit) of the following goods:
Good call on asking this question. Not impressed with the EU's sloppiness - I'll assume incompetence rather than malice - in endangering poor countries' food security, even if overall reason for sanctions is entirely correct. And the original position may not have been much of what the USA, for one, was intending. Bloomberg, June 13:
(note that this concern predates the EU being more restrictive)
The EU and the US have built exemptions into their restrictions on doing business with Russia to allow trade in fertilizer, of which Moscow is a key global supplier. But many shippers, banks and insurers have been staying away from the trade out of fear they could inadvertently fall afoul of the rules. Russian fertilizer exports are down 24% this year. US officials, surprised by the extent of the caution, are in the seemingly paradoxical position of looking for ways to boost them.
In trying to manage global opinion to counteract Russia, it is critical that countries do not starve because of an European war. Russia needs to be allowed to export grain and fertilizer and it needs to be put in a position where it has to allow Ukrainian grain and fertilizer. Primarily to poor countries in both cases. Any failure needs to be kept clearly attributable to Putin and his regime. Not miscommunication by Brussels directives.
It just doesn't look the way some like to claim, seen from other parts of the world (Business Insider Africa for example). Is this totally representative of the facts? Maybe, maybe not. But if enough countries believe it, watch out for the next UN roll call...
However, this did not happen. In practice, the EU's sectoral sanctions on fertilizers have only cemented the impossibility of supplying such products to third countries involving economic operators, infrastructure or EU territory. Additional cynicism of the whole situation is given by the fact that the EU has set quotas on fertilizers in its interests, and removed them from the sanctions.
Forbes, Sept 19
Russia accounts for roughly 10 % of global production and 20% of international fertilizer trade. A United Nations deal in early September to unblock shipments of Ukrainian and Russian fertilizer and grain at Black Sea ports was the biggest breakthrough in the war so far. Russia’s government said that the deal was not enough. It does little to remove restrictions and bottlenecks deeper along the supply chain.
There are no direct bans on Russian fertilizer, but there are indirect sanctions – such as sanctions on individual company owners, business executives at these companies, finance, machinery, spare parts, and the logistical sanctions on shipments via the sea and the rail through the Baltic States.
Russia had retaliated against Europe in March for sanctions by temporarily halting fertilizer exports. They changed their tune when it became clear that clients in other countries that may be buyers of that fertilizer via Europe would be in big trouble –in Africa, for instance.
BNN, Aug 15
The European Union jolted insurers and shippers by clarifying that a ban on EU entities servicing exports of Russian coal and some fertilizers applies to shipments anywhere in the world.
On close reading, at least some of the answers to a recent similar question are not that good looking for Europe, at least when you see the volumes bound for least-developed countries at the time.
Last, for all the insistence on legalistic arguments about "threats to developing countries", which is just a small part of this question, consider that shippers and insurers might have been more concerned about their own butts, remembering for example the Huawei affair: it would not be good, nor should it be good, to fall afoul of actual sanctions busting.