Russia has been accused of ‘weaponizing’ food and holding grain for millions of people around the world hostage to “break the spirit of the Ukrainian people”.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a UN Security Council meeting called by the United States that the war has halted maritime trade in large areas of the Black Sea and made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports and jeopardising global food supplies.
Blinken said the meeting, which he chaired, was taking place “at a moment of unprecedented global hunger” fueled by climate change and Covid-19 “and made even worse by conflict”.
Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, he said, its naval operations have sought to control access to the northwestern Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and to block Ukrainian ports which the United States assesses to be “a deliberate effort” to block safe passage and shut down shipping.
“As a result of the Russian government’s actions, some 20 million tonnes of grain sit unused in Ukrainian silos as global food supplies dwindle, prices skyrocket, causing more around the world to experience food insecurity.”
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia dismissed as “absolutely false” claims by the U.S. and Western nations “that we want to starve everyone to death and that only you and Ukraine allegedly care about how to save the lives of the country”.
“You assert that allegedly we are preventing agricultural products from being taken out of Ukraine by sea,” he said.
“However, the truth is that it is Ukraine and not Russia that has blocked 75 vessels from 17 states in the ports of Nikolaev, Kherson, Chernomorsk, Mariupol, Ochakov, Odesa and Yuzhniy and has mined the waterways.”
Nebenzia warned: “Unless this issue is resolved, we cannot speak of any opportunities to export Ukrainian grain by sea.”
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