Russia’s agricultural bank, Rosselkhozbank, may gain access to the SWIFT international banking system as early as this month, according to a letter from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. This move is seen as an incentive for Russia to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal, which was suspended in July. Rosselkhozbank will be able to access international banking transactions through its subsidiary in Luxembourg, RSHB Capital SA, which will act as an intermediary between the Russian lender and foreign banks.
The UN letter also mentioned other proposals, including a UN co-sponsored insurance facility for Russian food and fertilizer exports, created with Lloyd’s of London. This facility could be ready for operation within four to six weeks. Lloyd’s CEO, John Neal, confirmed that the company was in talks with the UN regarding providing insurance for Ukrainian grain shipments under the grain deal.
Furthermore, the letter stated that SWIFT has confirmed the eligibility of RSHB Capital SA to apply for membership and access to its system for food and fertilizer transactions based on its current status as an issuer of debt securities. Guterres added that SWIFT has already confirmed the possibility of an expedited application process, which could allow effective access within 30 days. However, SWIFT has not made any official statements on the matter thus far.
The UN has also pledged to continue working towards unfreezing Russian assets in the EU related to agriculture and fertilizer trade. However, Russian companies will still need to apply to the national authorities of EU member states for exemptions from sanctions.
Earlier this week, Moscow expressed skepticism over the UN proposals, considering them empty promises. The Russian Foreign Ministry highlighted that there was nothing new in these suggestions and that similar initiatives had not been put into practice before. The ministry’s statement emphasized that Russia has only received promises from the UN Secretariat instead of actual exemptions from sanctions. It concluded that these recent proposals do not contain any new elements and cannot lead to tangible progress in bringing Russia’s agricultural exports back to normal.
Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative in mid-July. The initiative, brokered by the UN and Turkey last year, aimed to facilitate the delivery of Ukrainian grain to world markets amidst the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It was also expected to help lift Western sanctions that hindered Russia’s agricultural exports. However, Moscow repeatedly pointed out that the part of the deal linked to facilitating Russian exports and lifting relevant companies’ sanctions remained unfulfilled.