Russia announced on Monday the suspension of a vital humanitarian corridor established to facilitate the export of crucial Ukrainian grains to global markets, just hours before the deal’s termination. 

The United Nations-mediated Black Sea Grain Initiative, initially established in July 2022, has undergone multiple extensions in brief periods. This was due to Russia’s growing dissatisfaction with perceived limitations impeding its own grain and fertiliser exports. The initiative was primarily designed to alleviate the worldwide food crisis ensuing from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a significant grain exporter and neighbour. 

The agreement was slated to terminate at midnight Istanbul time on Monday.

“The Black Sea agreements ceased to be valid today. As the President of the Russian Federation said earlier, the deadline is July 17. Unfortunately, the part relating to Russia in this Black Sea agreement has not been implemented so far. Therefore, its effect is terminated,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, in Google-translated comments reported by Russian state news agency Tass on Monday.

Following the news, wheat prices surged by 3.5%.

Russia has formally notified Ankara, Kyiv, and the U.N. secretariat of its opposition to extending the initiative, as cited by Tass, quoting a Google-translated Telegram post by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Even before a reported explosion on the Crimean bridge, which killed two and caused a traffic disruption — an incident Russian-supported officials labelled a “terrorist attack” and attributed to Ukraine, Peskov stated that Russia communicated its objections to extend the grain deal.

The grain agreement permitted the export of commercial food and fertiliser supplies, including ammonia, from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports: Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi (formerly Yuzhny). Cargo vessels would then navigate through the designated humanitarian corridor to Istanbul, one of Turkey’s busiest ports. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has been heavily involved in the negotiations.

“Russia would have you believe it is being forced to end a deal that, in fact, it benefits from – a deal designed to alleviate some of the global consequences of its war of choice,” Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on July 13, estimating that over 32 million tons of grain and food reached global markets to date as a result of the deal.