Zelensky warns of a “starvation catastrophe” and accuses Russia of blocking Ukraine’s grain exports
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of famine and a “starvation catastrophe”, as he accused Russia of blocking grain exports from his war-torn country – which the US described as an attempt to “break the morale of the Ukrainian people”.
During remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, Zelensky said that Russian forces are preventing Ukraine from exporting 22 million tons of food products that include “cereals, barley, sunflower and others.”
“If we do not issue in the coming months, if there are no political agreements with Russia through intermediaries – there will be famine, there will be catastrophe, there will be a deficit, there will be a heavy price,” Zelensky said.
Earlier in May, Ukraine closed its four ports – Mariupol, Berdyansk and Skadovsk in the Sea of Azov and Kherson in the Black Sea – “until control is regained”. Russian forces captured some of the ports, while others besieged.
“You can unblock them in different ways,” Zelensky said in Davos. “One way is a military solution. That is why we turn to our partners to inquire about the relevant weapons.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine has had a ripple effect around the world: it has disrupted supply chains and contributed to soaring fuel prices and a scarcity of grain and fertilizer. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in April that Russia’s war on Ukraine was mostly responsible for the 17.1% rise in prices of wheat, barley, corn and other grains.
At a UN Security Council meeting on May 19, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken accused Russia of weaponizing food and holding grain hostage to “break the morale of the Ukrainian people”.
Blinken said the meeting, called by the United States, was taking place “in a moment of unprecedented global hunger” fueled by climate change and COVID-19, and “made worse by conflict.”
Blinken said Russia has sought control of Ukraine’s ports and access to the Black and Azov seas since its invasion began in February, describing this as a “deliberate effort” to shut down shipping and prevent any safe passage.
“As a result of the actions of the Russian government, about 20 million tons of grain in Ukrainian silos were not used as the global food supply dwindled, and prices rose dramatically, causing more food insecurity around the world,” he said.
Vasily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the accusations “absolutely false.”
“You confirm that we are allegedly banning agricultural products from Ukraine by sea,” Nebenzia said. “However, the fact is that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that blocked 75 ships from 17 countries in Nikolaev ports [known as Mykolaiv in Ukraine]Kherson, Chernomorsk, Mariupol, Uchakov, Odessa and Yuzhny and mined in the waterways.
“Unless this problem is resolved, we cannot talk about any opportunities to export Ukrainian grain by sea,” he warned.
The United States has few options to help end the Russian blockade. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley indicated at a press conference Monday with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that the United States does not have ships in the Black Sea.
“I think it is very important for the economy of Ukraine and many countries in the world depend on Ukrainian grain,” he told reporters.
“Right now, it’s kind of a stalemate [in the Black Sea region] Among the Ukrainians wanting to ensure that there is no amphibious landing of any kind against Odessa, a major port, he said.
Meanwhile, Russia itself would benefit from blocking Ukrainian exports; Since it is a major grain producer, according to Nebenzya, it expects a record wheat crop. He said Russia could offer to export 25 million tons of grain from August 1 to the end of 2022 through the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.
The UN ambassador went on to accuse Russia of more than 10,000 sanctions, cutting off transport routes, preventing Russian ships from entering ports and causing other problems.
“If you don’t want the sanctions of your choosing to be lifted, why are you accusing us of causing this food crisis?” Asked. “Why should the poorest countries and regions suffer as a result of your irresponsible geopolitical games?”
In a recent statement, the G7 foreign ministers urged Russia to “immediately cease its attacks on Ukraine’s key transport infrastructure, including ports.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he is ready to facilitate the export of grain and fertilizer, but only if sanctions against Russia are lifted.