VILNIUS, April 22 (Reuters) – A first shipment of Russian fertilizer seized by Latvia last year is being shipped to Kenya by the United Nations World Food Program, Latvia’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Russia has cited the seizure as a key obstacle to its continued participation in a Black Sea grain deal that allows Ukraine to export grain.
A ship left Riga port on Friday with part of the 200,000 tons of fertilizer seized, the ministry said.
Several other ships are expected to transport the remainder of the fertilizer confiscated in March 2022, a ministry spokesman said.
Russia has indicated it will not allow the Black Sea export deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 to continue beyond May 18 because it failed to meet a list of demands to facilitate its own grain and fertilizer exports became.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly cited fertilizers stuck in Baltic Sea ports as one of the key stumbling blocks to the deal’s continuation.
The Latvian government described the shipments as a “donation,” which it made possible as “support to countries affected by the food crisis sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if Russia was happy with the delivery or if it would increase the chances of an extension to the grain deal.
Related article: US is silently asking shipping companies to ship Russian fertilizer
The move comes ahead of a meeting in New York next week between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary-General António Guterres to discuss the grain deal, among other things.
Lavrov said nothing had been done to address Russia’s concerns.
Most of the fertilizer seized in Latvia belongs to Uralchem and Uralkali URKAI.MM, according to market sources and data from Reuters.
The companies were formerly controlled by Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, who relinquished control last year after the European Union sanctioned him as “a member of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle” in March 2022.
The Uralchem-Uralkali Group announced in February that it intends to donate more than 34,000 tons of fertilizers stored in Latvia to Kenya.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Jason Neely)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.