However, neither the UN nor Erdogan initially confirmed until when it will be extended. Without an agreement, the agreement would have expired on Sunday. Kiev had previously announced that the agreement would be extended by 120 days. According to Russian information a few days ago, it should only be extended by 60 days. According to British information, Moscow informed all contracting parties that the extension was valid for 60 days.
The agreement on the Black Sea Grain Initiative came about in July 2022 with the mediation of the United Nations and Turkey and provides for the release of Ukrainian ports and a corridor in the Black Sea for grain exports. Russia had blocked Ukrainian grain exports for months after the start of its war of aggression on February 24, 2022.
Ukraine and Russia are important suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Before the war began, Russia was also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizers. The disruption of these supplies following the Russian invasion in February 2022 drove up food prices around the world and fueled fears of a hunger crisis in poorer countries.
“Critical for global supply”
“Following our talks with both sides, we have reached the extension of the agreement, which was due to expire on March 19,” Erdogan said at a ceremony opening a facility in Canakkale, western Turkey. He thanked Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations for their efforts to uphold the deal, which he described as “vital to the stability of the world’s food supply.” So far, more than 800 ships have transported 25 million tons of grain under the agreement, the Turkish head of state said.
In addition, there was an agreement with Russia to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizers. Russia has repeatedly threatened to scrap the agreements, citing, among other things, that Western sanctions are further hampering its own grain and fertilizer exports.
Putin surprise in Crimea
Meanwhile, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin flew to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. The occasion is the ninth anniversary of the internationally unrecognized Russian annexation of Crimea. State television broadcast images of the Kremlin chief opening an art school for children in Sevastopol.
It is the first visit by the Russian President to Crimea on the anniversary of the annexation since 2020. Since the beginning of the war of aggression he ordered against Ukraine, the Russian President has generally avoided areas close to the front. At the end of 2022, he tested the navigability of the Crimean Bridge, which had been badly damaged by an attack in the fall.
Arrest warrant against Putin
Meanwhile, traveling abroad could become more difficult and risky for Putin in the future. A day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin, this decision was expectedly welcomed by leading Western politicians. US President Joe Biden described the decision as a “very strong signal”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke of a “historic decision”.
The court’s arrest warrant was issued on Friday for kidnapping thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia in the Ukraine war. According to the ICC, Putin is allegedly “personally responsible” for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children to Russian territory, calling it a war crime. An arrest warrant was also issued against the Russian President’s child rights commissioner, Maria Alexeyevna Lvowa-Belowa.
More risk when traveling in contracting states
Moscow has called the arrest warrant “meaningless” because it does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction. According to Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, Putin could now be arrested if he travels to any of the ICC’s 123 contracting states. However, the court is dependent on their cooperation because it does not have its own police forces to implement the arrest warrant.
In the past, the countries have not always cooperated – especially when it came to an incumbent head of state. However, a visit by Putin could damage the image of such countries and could strain relations with Western countries. Whether the arrest warrant will actually have an effect and if so, which one, is currently still open.