According to the results of an investigative report by German newspaper Bild, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a confidential letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on August 28. In the letter, Guterres proposed a significant easing of sanctions in exchange for Russia's return to the "grain deal" and the resumption of the Black Sea Initiative. Guterres' proposal consists of four specific points, as reported by Bild.
Specifically, the UN chief suggests lifting the financial sanctions imposed on Russia's agricultural bank (Rosselkhozbank) in June 2022 by the EU, which, like other Russian financial institutions, has been disconnected from the SWIFT system. Guterres' idea revolves around the establishment of a subsidiary company, RSHB Capital S.A., by this bank and its connection to SWIFT. The subsidiary will provide technical services for payment operations without performing independent banking functions, meaning it will not require a banking license, the report highlights.
A representative of the European Commission confirmed in an interview with Bild that the EU has considered the possibility of finding a "constructive solution" that would allow trade payments for agricultural products and food to be made through SWIFT without violating EU sanctions. SWIFT also confirmed to the publication that "high-level discussions are ongoing regarding the Black Sea grain initiative."
As a second point, according to Bild, the UN proposes to insure Russian ships against Ukrainian attacks in the Azov and Black seas. "The UN-funded insurance company for Russian food and fertilizer exports could begin working with Lloyd's (international insurance market) within 4-6 weeks," the publication quotes the alleged letter from Guterres. According to Bild, the head of the UN considers it necessary not only to insure Russian export goods but also to provide insurance against external impacts, as well as third-party liability insurance.
The third point involves the return of Russia's frozen funds in the EU. Guterres proposes that Russia provide a list of accounts and assets, and Russian fertilizer producers should apply to EU authorities to lift sanctions. According to Bild, the UN will collaborate with the relevant countries and the EU in considering these applications, promises the UN chief.
The fourth point is a proposal to allow Russian ships carrying food and fertilizers to enter ports in Germany and other countries. In summary, if this proposal is implemented, the UN will fulfill all the demands of the Russian leadership, and the airstrikes on Ukrainian civilian objects carried out by Russia will be compensated, as reported by Bild.
A corridor for exporting Ukrainian food through Black Sea ports was agreed upon in the summer of 2022, and it allowed for the shipment of 30 to 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain to the global market, primarily to developing countries. In July 2023, Russia refused to extend the "grain deal", which had allowed for the export of Ukrainian food via the Black Sea despite the ongoing war. Following this, Moscow intensified attacks on Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea and the Danube River.
Ahead of the G20 summit, which will begin on September 9th, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, called on Russia to cease its blockade of Ukrainian ports and provide safe access to the Black Sea for grain-carrying vessels. He announced that the EU would intensify efforts to establish alternative export routes for Ukrainian food through European "solidarity channels".