Putin casts doubt on Ukraine’s grain deal and gas supplies to Europe

  • Putin accuses Kyiv and the West of violating the grain deal
  • Russia wants to discuss changing the terms of the deal
  • Threatens to cut off energy exports if Europe imposes price controls

Kyiv (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday discussed reopening a U.N.-brokered deal for Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea and threatened to cut off all energy supplies to Europe if Brussels sets the price of Russian gas.

In a combative speech to an economic forum in Russia’s Far Eastern region, Putin made little mention of his invasion of Ukraine, but said in response to a question that Russia would not lose the war and consolidated its sovereignty.

On the ground, Ukrainian officials have remained cautious about the success of the counter-offensive they launched late last month, but a Russian-appointed official in eastern Ukraine said Ukrainian forces attacked a town there.

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The grain pact, facilitated by the United Nations and Turkey, created a protected corridor for Ukrainian foodstuffs after Kyiv lost access to the main export route when Russia attacked Ukraine by land, air and sea.

Designed to help ease global food prices by increasing supplies, the agreement was the only diplomatic achievement between Moscow and Kiev in more than six months of war.

But Putin said the deal transferred grain, fertilizer and other foodstuffs to the European Union and Turkey, not to poor countries, which should have priority.

“It may be useful to consider how to limit the export of grain and other foodstuffs along this route,” he said, adding that Russia will continue to abide by its terms, hoping to achieve its original goals.

“I will certainly consult the President of Turkey, Mr. (Tayyab) Erdogan, on this subject because it is I who set up a mechanism for the export of Ukrainian grain above all, I repeat, in order to help the poorest countries.”

The agreement is up for renewal in late November.

Ukraine attacks ‘aggressive’ Russia

Ukraine, whose ports Russia has closed, said the terms signed on July 22 were being strictly adhered to and there was no reason to renegotiate.

“Such unexpected and baseless statements indicate an attempt to find new aggressive talking points to influence world public opinion and, above all, to put pressure on the United Nations,” said Mikhailo Podolak, a presidential adviser. Read more

The deal gave Kyiv much-needed revenue for a war-ravaged economy. It does not specify which countries Ukraine’s grain should go to, and the United Nations has confirmed that it is a commercial operation, not a humanitarian one.

According to data from the Istanbul-based Coordination Group that monitors the deal, 30% of the goods, which include those destined for or destined through Turkey, went to low- and middle-income countries.

Putin complained that another part of the deal aimed at easing restrictions on Russian food exporters and shippers had not been implemented. read more Russian grain exports in August are expected to come in 28% lower than the same period last year, according to forecasts from Russian consultancy Sovcon.

Other major global repercussions of the conflict have been rising energy prices as the West responds with sanctions and Moscow has restricted gas exports to Europe, blaming Western restrictions and technical problems.

With the European Union poised to propose a price cap on Russian gas to try to contain an energy crisis that threatens widespread hardship this winter, Putin has threatened to cut off all supplies if he takes such a step.

“Will there be any political decisions that contradict contracts? Yes, we will not fulfill them. We will not save anything at all if it is against our interests,” Putin said.

“We will not save gas, oil, coal, heating oil – we will not save anything.”

Europe usually imports about 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia.

In Turkey, Erdogan berated the West for provoking Putin, while Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that if Europeans counted on Ukraine’s military victory, they should prepare not for a cold but a “polar” one. Read more

In response to a question about what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine at the Vladivostok forum, Putin said: “We have not lost anything and will not lose anything … the main gain was the strengthening of our sovereignty.”

The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, which Russia said it seized on behalf of separatist proxies, said on Tuesday that the Ukrainian counterattack was having “some success” but avoided details.

An official in the pro-Moscow Donetsk People’s Republic said fighting broke out in Balaklya, an eastern town of 27,000 people between Russia-controlled Kharkiv and Izyum, which is the site of a railway hub that Moscow uses to supply troops.

Daniil Bezsonov, via Telegram, added that in the event of a loss of the city, the Russian forces in Isium would become weak on its northwest side. Russia says it has repelled an attack in the south and has not announced any territorial losses.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces had captured the Kudima settlement in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine from Ukrainian forces.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield accounts.

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Reporting by Reuters. Written by Andrew Osborne and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Philippa Fletcher

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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