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Wheat spikes
Russia and Ukraine are the world's largest wheat exportersImage: Gudella/YAY Images/IMAGO
Food SecurityGlobal issues

Russia 'weaponizes' food security, US tells UN meeting

Farah Bahgat
May 19, 2022

Washington's top diplomat has called on Russia to lift a blockade on Ukraine's Black Sea ports, while Russia's UN envoy said it was "absolutely false" that Moscow was blamed for global food insecurity.

https://p.dw.com/p/4Ba9T

The UN Security Council held a meeting Thursday on food insecurity exacerbated by conflict and Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain exporters. Russia's blockade of Black Sea ports has triggered a crisis in grain supplies, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he opened the session.

"Russia's unprovoked war of aggression has halted maritime trade in large swathes of the Black Sea. It has made the region unsafe for navigation, trapping Ukrainian agricultural exports as we heard [and] jeopardizing global food supplies," Blinken said.

Thursday's debate aims to "mobilize action to address global food insecurity," according to the US State Department.

Ukraine war exacerbates global hunger

'Weaponizing' food?

Blinken referred to a 2018 UN resolution that condemned starvation as a tool of war, saying the situation has worsened since then.

"The Russian Federation's flagrant disregard of this resolution is just the latest example of a government using the hunger of civilians to try to advance its objectives," Blinken said. 

Washington's top diplomat also insisted that sanctions against Russia "aren't blocking Black Sea ports, Russia is" 

"The decision to weaponize food is Moscow's and Moscow's alone." 

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has also accused Moscow of blocking Ukraine's grain exports as a weapon of war.

"Russia is leading this war with another terrible and forceful weapon: hunger and deprivation. By blocking Ukrainian ports, by destroying silos, streets and railroads, Russia has launched a grain war, stoking a global food crisis," Baerbock said at a UN meeting a day earlier.

How to stop Russia's food war in Ukraine

What has Russia said?

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the UN, said it was "absolutely false" that his country was being blamed for global food insecurity that has been brewing for years. 

Nebenzia instead blamed Kyiv for blocking Ukraine's ports, saying Ukrainian forces had placed mines along the Black Sea coast.

He also said Western sanctions have had a negative effect on Russian food and fertilizer exports. 

According to the Interfax news agency, Russia seems to imply a possibility to open Ukrainian ports for grain exports if on sanctions Moscow were lifted. 

"If our partners want to reach a solution, then the problems associated with lifting those sanctions placed on Russian exports must also be solved," the agency quoted  Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying. 

Africa hit by high fertilizer prices

UN chief: No solution without Russia and Ukraine

On Wednesday, UN Security-General Antonio Guterres said he was in "intense contact" with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the EU in an effort to relieve the crisis. 

"There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine food production, as well as the food and fertilizer produced by Russia and Belarus into world market despite the war," Guterres said.

Guterres: 'Russia must permit the safe and secure export of grain'

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths on Thursday called on Kyiv and Moscow to resume peace talks. 

"We need it done urgently because in Ukraine, the silos are full of the grain from the last harvest and the next harvest is soon approaching," Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

"They need somewhere to put that grain and we need to get their grain into the countries that need it," he said.

"We need those harvests to be planted, and the world needs peace in Ukraine, just as the people of Ukraine deserve it."

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