EU could loosen Russia sanctions – Reuters

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Moscow has warned it will quit the Black Sea grain deal if agricultural lender Rosselkhozbank is not reconnected to the SWIFT payment system

The European Union is considering reconnecting a sanctioned Russian bank to the SWIFT global financial network in a bid to rescue the Black Sea grain deal, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing sources. 

People familiar with the discussions said the bloc could reconnect a subsidiary of Rosselkhozbank, a major Russian agricultural lender, specifically to allow for grain and fertilizer transactions. According to reports, the plan was proposed by Moscow through UN-brokered negotiations.

Rosselkhozbank was cut off from SWIFT amid Ukraine-related Western sanctions against Russia. The lender’s reconnection has been among Moscow’s conditions to extend the deal for exporting Ukrainian and Russian grain, formally known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The arrangement was initially mediated by the UN and Türkiye and signed in July 2022, but is due to expire on July 18.

Moscow said last week that it saw “no grounds” to prolong the agreement as the agreed goals of steering grain towards poor nations and unblocking Russian grain exports had not been met.

Sources also told Reuters that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow agree to extend the grain deal in exchange for partial access to SWIFT. Guterres reportedly suggested that Moscow prolong the agreement for several months, to give Brussels time to connect the Rosselkhozbank subsidiary to the payment system.

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