Sources say that Russia and Ukraine have discussed exchanging ammonia and prisoners in the Emirates

By Aziz El Yaakubi, Pavel Polityuk and Jonathan Saul

RIYADH (Reuters) – Russian and Ukrainian officials met in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week. We received information about this meeting from Ukraine from three sources.

Sources said the talks took place without Emirati mediation and United Nations involvement despite the United Nations playing a central role in establishing sea corridors to allow agricultural exports from three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. .

However, the Russian ammonia talks aim to clear remaining obstacles to completing a grain deal reached in July and last week extended for four months, and to ease global shortages of certain food products by preventing more Ukrainian exports from Russia. they added.

Ammonia is used in the production of fertilizers used in conventional agriculture.

Russian and Ukrainian emissaries went to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirate, on November 17, where they discussed the resumption of Russia’s ammonia exports on the condition of a large prisoner exchange, the sources said.

Reuters could not immediately determine whether the talks had resulted in any progress.

The foreign ministries of the UAE, Russia and Ukraine, and the defense ministries of Russia and Ukraine did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

The spokesman of the organization refused to speak to the question about whether the UN participates in these discussions.


The proposed project would see Russian ammonia flow from Russia’s Volga region near Odessa on the Black Sea to the Ukrainian port of Pivdenny, called Yuzhne in Russian, through an existing gas pipeline designed to transport up to 2.5 million tons of ammonia per year. would be loaded onto ships bound for international customers.

The gas pipeline was shut down after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, which Moscow called a “special military operation.”

Ammonia exports are not affected by the extension of the sea corridors agreement from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Rebecca Grynspan, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and mediator in the fertilizer talks, expressed optimism last week that Russia and Ukraine could reach an agreement on Russian ammonia exports through the pipeline. He did not explain the reasons for his optimism.

Through his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has set several conditions for the resumption of Russian ammonia exports, including a prisoner exchange and the reopening of the port of Mykolaiv.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine has released official figures on the number of prisoners held since the conflict began. Vladimir Zelensky said on October 29 that Russia has released 1,031 people since March.

Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian leader of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, said Russia and Ukraine will exchange 50 prisoners each on Thursday.

Since ceasefire talks broke down in the first weeks of the Russian occupation, Russia and Ukraine have given almost no indication of possible direct talks.

The emirate’s efforts are part of a continuation of mediation by Saudi Arabia, which scored a diplomatic success in September by securing the release of foreign fighters captured in Ukraine by Russia.

Like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates are part of the OPEC+ oil cartel, which includes Russia. Despite pressure from the West, they maintained good relations with Moscow.

Their chairman, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, visited Moscow last month and discussed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the possibilities of the Emirate’s mediation on Russian ammonia.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakubi in Riyadh, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Jonathan Saul in London, with Jonathan Spicer, French version by Bertrand Boussin, Editing by Sophie Louet)

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