Russia comes under fire at the UN for fueling global food crisis

Sana Noor Haq and Eliza Mackintosh in London

Russia is coming under increasing fire for its role in fueling a growing global food crisis.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council on Monday, European Council President Charles Michel accused the Kremlin of “using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries,” by holding millions of tons of Ukrainian grain hostage and blockading Ukraine’s ports.

“The dramatic consequences of Russia’s war are spilling over across the globe. And this is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions. Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis, Russia alone,” Michel said in his speech at the UN headquarters in New York.

The European Council chief refuted Russia’s claims that Western sanctions were to blame for the food crisis, calling the narrative “disinformation” and saying that the EU had no sanctions on the agricultural sector in Russia. “Even our sanctions on the Russian transport sector do not go beyond our EU borders,” he continued. “They do not prevent Russian-flagged vessels from carrying grain, food or fertilizers to developing countries.”

Michel’s remarks, at a Security Council meeting convened primarily to discuss sexual violence and other alleged atrocities carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine, underlines the concerns in Brussels about the Kremlin’s false narrative on the food crisis.

“The Kremlin is also targeting grain storage and stealing grain in Ukraine while shifting the blame on others. This is cowardly. This is pure and simple propaganda. Let’s get to the facts,” Michel said.

The comments prompted Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, to storm out of the meeting, to which Michel responded: “You may leave the room, maybe it’s easier not to listen to the truth Mr. Ambassador.”

Since launching its invasion of Ukraine in late February, Russia has upended food production and distribution from the country, known to the world as Europe’s breadbasket. A months-long barricade of key ports — including Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and Odesa on the Black Sea — have left more than 20 million tons of grain stuck inside Ukraine.

In May, satellite images of the Crimean port of Sevastopol appeared to show bulk carrier ships with Russian insignia docking and loading up what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain. The EU’s High Representative, Josep Borrell, on Monday condemned a Russian missile strike that demolished a big grain storage terminal in the southern port city of Mykolaiv over the weekend.

US officials looking to salvage Ukrainian grain: The Biden administration is working to get temporary storage containers for Ukrainian grain into the country, a stopgap measure as it seeks to mitigate the food crisis, administration officials told CNN earlier this month. The storage containers — such as bags or boxes — could help salvage some of the grain stuck inside Ukraine, and ideally be loaded onto trains or trucks out of the country once overland routes are established. Still, the US and its international partners are no closer to finding a quick and absolute solution to lifting the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports that’s raised global food prices and threatened to cause a catastrophic food shortage in parts of the world.

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