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EU Diplomat Slams Russia Over Ukrainian Grain Blockade

The EU's top diplomat has accused Russia of committing "a real war crime" by blocking grain exports from Ukraine.

"One cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger. This is a real war crime," Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, said at the start of a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers on June 20 in Luxembourg.

The ministers are scheduled to discuss ways to free millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine due to a blockade of its Black Sea ports by Russian forces.

Since Russia launched its unprovoked attack on Ukraine and blocked its ports, the country's grain shipments have stalled, leaving more than 20 million tons of grain trapped in silos.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Western accusations that Moscow is responsible for a sharp rise in global grain prices due to its naval blockade of the ports.

He claimed last week that Russia was ready to guarantee the transit of ships exporting Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea and that Ukraine had alternative land routes, something Western experts say is not feasible.

Moscow has previously demanded that economic sanctions on it be lifted in exchange for allowing grain exports.

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Borrell said that Russia's actions, and not Western sanctions, were to blame for the worsening global food crisis as the EU works to defuse the Kremlin's counternarrative.

"I want to insist that it's not the European sanctions [that are] creating this crisis. Our sanctions don't target food, don't target fertilizers," Borrell said.

International grain prices have soared amid the standoff, and key importers in the Middle East and Africa are facing supply shortfalls.

By RFE/RL

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