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Russia confirms Black Sea grain deal renewed for two months, says 'distortions' remain

Vessels carrying grain wait in the southern anchorage of the Bosphorus in Istanbul

(Reuters) - Russia confirmed on Wednesday that a deal to allow Ukraine to export its grain safely across the Black Sea, despite Russia's war in Ukraine, had been extended for two months.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the deal had been extended to help countries in need, but added that Russia's overall assessment of the situation regarding the deal had not changed.

Russia had threatened to quit the arrangement, agreed last July with the help of the United Nations and Turkey, this Thursday unless a list of conditions were met.

"The extension of the grain deal is for two months. Thus, there is a chance, not in words, but in deeds, to help ensure global food security. First of all, to help the most needy countries," Zakharova told reporters in a video briefing.

The Russian conditions were designed to counter the effect of some of the economic sanctions imposed by the West after Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine.

The demands were:

- the readmission of the Russian agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the international banking payment system, SWIFT

- the resumption of supplies to Russia of agricultural machinery and spares

- the lifting of restrictions on insurance and access to ports for Russian ships and cargo

- the reinstatement of a pipeline pumping ammonia from the Russian city of Togliatti to the Ukrainian port of Odesa

- the unblocking of accounts and financial activities of Russian fertiliser companies

It was not clear whether any of the demands had been secured. Zakharova said work on them would continue.

"We proceed from the obligation to implement the parameters we declared," she said.

"Our fundamental assessments of the Istanbul agreements concluded on July 22, 2022, have not changed, and the distortions in their implementation must be corrected as quickly as possible."

(Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)