The Black Sea Grain Initiative, was brokered in July of 2022 by Turkey (and the UN?), and involved Russia, Ukraine and other world states. Russia has recently (July 2023) allowed the deal to expire without renewal, making various accusations against the West.

The deal had allowed for safe passage of Ukrainian ships carrying grain through the black sea, subject to inspections in Istanbul; but - what exactly was the other side of the deal? i.e. what did the Russian Federation get in return?

The UN's "note to correspondents" about the deal, from last year, says:

An agreement was also reached with the Russian Federation on the scope of engagement of the United Nations to facilitate the unimpeded exports to world markets of Russian food and fertilizer – including the raw materials required to produce fertilizers. This agreement is based on the principle that measures imposed on the Russian Federation do not apply to these products.

That is rather vague. Were there guarantees of:

  1. Access by Russia / Russian firms / Russian banks to the SWIFT system for the purpose of receive payments for exported grain & fertilizer?
  2. Access to relevant shipping and other insurance from non-Russian insuring entities?
  3. Access by grain/fertilizer-trade-related Russian individuals and firms to their assets in sanctioning world states which had been frozen?

This story suggests that some indirect channel for payment processing existed between JP Morgan Chase and the Russian Rosselkhozbank bank, and demands for the above to be arranged for, but it's not clear to me what part of that was supposed to happen in the original deal and didn't, and what part is Russia demanding better terms.

  • Note that the agreement essentially says that Russia does not blockade shipments of grain/ food from Ukraine. So the answer to 'what does Russia get' might simply be 'EU+US are not sanctioning them even harder'. I don't know the details though and am looking forward to a good answer.
    – quarague
    Aug 12, 2023 at 8:04
  • @quarague: A unilateral gesture does not an agreement/deal make.... and it doesn't square even with your mention of EU+US sanction lifting.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 12, 2023 at 11:23
  • I agree, my point was more that the agreement that was signed might not have any explicit benefit for Russia in it. It seems quite possible to me that the agreement just says that the trade will not be blockaded and nothing else.
    – quarague
    Aug 12, 2023 at 18:32
  • 1
    One big benefit might be that they will not lose their naval fleet in humiliation to an army without ships. Last time their ship (as claimed by everlying ru propaganda) to successfully repelled all attacks, it was found not in such good conditions only a few hours later: Olenegorsky_Gornyak. Would it be further in the sea and not <1km from port, it might have joined Moscow cruiser. Another benefit might be that Erdogan will still continue speaking with fuhrer and not be 100% hostile to him. Aug 12, 2023 at 18:57
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    @SalvadorDali: Not a useful comment.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 12, 2023 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


The deal made Russian agricultural exports exempt from sanctions

Besides the fact that there may well have been some non-public clauses within the initiative, its public part looks quite symmetric: Russia allows the export of Ukrainian grain, and UN & Turkey facilitate the export of Russian agricultural products.

Indeed, in their repeated threats of withdrawing from the deal, it was obstacles hindering agricultural exports that Russia complained about. E. g., a press release of 13 April 2023 lists the following demands:

  • reconnecting Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT;
  • resuming supplies of agricultural machinery, spare parts and maintenance service;
  • lifting restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, plus unblocking access to ports;
  • restoring the work of the Tolyatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline;
  • unblocking foreign assets and accounts of Russian companies related to the production and transportation of food and fertilisers
  • 1
    Thanks for this... Can you explain how the ammonia pipeline relates to agricultural exports? Also, those demands by Russia - were any of these measures specifically mentioned in context of the deal? Even in unilateral letters to Russia by negotiators etc.?
    – einpoklum
    Aug 14, 2023 at 18:01
  • @einpoklum Ammonia is widely used in the manufacture of fertilizer as a source of nitrogen, see fertilizerseurope.com/fertilizers-in-europe/… Aug 14, 2023 at 18:07
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    Ammonia is a precursor to most nitrogen-based fertilizers. The pipeline from Tolyatti (Russia) to Odessa (Ukraine) allowed the export of Russian ammonia via Ukrainian ports. Aug 14, 2023 at 18:10
  • @einpoklum, do you mean whether these demands were acknowledged as legitimate part of the deal by other parties except Russia, or whether the demands were mentioned as a necessary part of the deal by the Russian side? The former, haven't found out yet; the latter, certainly yes: the press release cited was specifically about the grain initiative. Aug 14, 2023 at 18:17
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    I meant the former. But - did Russia mention all of these during, right-before, or right-after the negotiations? I'm sure they must have at least mentioned the SWIFT connection, because otherwise Russian exporters can only take cash payments or payments with entities with accounts in Russian banks.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 14, 2023 at 18:29

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