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series of attacks on agricultural infrastructure threaten food security

Videos shared on social networks and testimonies attest to a new tactic of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine: bombing and looting agricultural machinery, farms and grain reserves in the “breadbasket of Europe”. According to a food security expert, these are “deliberate attempts by Russia to reduce Ukrainian agricultural production”.

Agriculture in Ukraine has been severely affected by the Russian offensive in the country since February 24. In 2021, Ukraine harvested a record 106 million tonnes of grain. But for 2022, it is almost half of the harvest that could be lost because of the war, as the Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture lamented on March 31.

In addition to the difficulties of production and exports, amateur images show that farms and grain reserves seem to have been directly targeted by attacks by Russian armed forces.

Videos show bombed fields, farms and silos

For example, there are videos and satellite images of the destruction of a silo that could contain 30,000 tonnes of cereals on a farm belonging to the Golden Agro company in Roubijné, in eastern Ukraine (location here). She was the victim of an explosion on April 9, after a tank of nitric acid, a chemical used in fertilizers, was hit by shelling.

A satellite image of the Golden Agro farm in Rubizhne, dated April 21 and published by the American company Planet, shows a crater supposedly left by the explosion.

On the left, a satellite image shows the Golden Agro farm before the explosion. On the right, another satellite image taken on April 21, eleven days after the explosion, shows the appearance of a crater.

In another video, posted on March 31 on Telegram, cows can be seen prowling among destroyed equipment at Agromol’s dairy farm in Chestakovo, Kharkiv region, Ukraine (location here).

A video posted on Telegram on March 21, 2022 shows Agromol’s dairy farm in Chestakovo.

Of the 1,000 animals the farm had, only a handful survived the bombs. Many cows were killed, as shown by photos shared on social networks.

Surveillance cameras captured the moment a rocket hit a grain elevator near Sinelnikovo in the Dnipropetrovsk region of southeastern Ukraine. Governor Valentyn Reznichenko posted the video on Telegram on May 2, saying there were no casualties.

A video posted on Telegram on May 2 shows a rocket fire at an agricultural shed and tractors in Sinelnikovo, Dnipropetrovsk region.

According to US officials, at least six grain storage facilities had been damaged by Russian attacks by the end of March. The images of the attacks document “deliberate attempts by Russia to reduce Ukrainian agricultural production”, assures Caitlin Welsh to the editorial staff of the Observers, director of the food security program at the American think tank Center for strategic and international studies. (CSIS). It could not be otherwise according to her: “Some of these attacks are so precise – for example, just a destroyed warehouse, with no collateral damage around”.

For the German Minister of Agriculture, Cem Oezdemir, these attacks against Ukrainian agricultural infrastructure could be attempts to reduce competition with Russia in the export of cereals. Russia is the largest wheat exporter in the world, while Ukraine is the fifth. Together, the two countries account for 29% of world wheat exports.

“As civilians work in these fields, I think it constitutes a war crime”

Faced with these attacks, some fear a deliberate attempt to starve the population. For them, they are reminiscent of the Holodomor, a famine caused by Stalin’s forced collectivization which claimed 5 million lives from 1932 to 1933. According to Ukrainian and Western historians, this famine was intentionally caused by Soviet power to break the will independence of Ukraine.

>> Read on the Observers: Ukraine: Strikes on supermarkets fuel fear of food shortages

John Herbst was US Ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006 and currently heads the Eurasia hub of the American think tank Atlantic Council. According to him, Russia targets agriculture to affect not only the Ukrainian economy, but also the morale of civilians.

Ukraine has been famous for its black soils for centuries: they are among the most fertile and best cultivated in the world. They represent a very important part of the Ukrainian economy, which was doing relatively well before this latest escalation from Russia. Now it has suffered a lot, like the rest of the economy. [Poutine] is deliberately destroying Ukraine’s economy, including the country’s agricultural heartland. And he has no fear of the overall effect of stopping Ukrainian wheat exports.

When Russia launched its offensive, we knew that bombing civilians would be part of its plan to subdue the population. Following the failure of the siege of kyiv […], they sought to aim for other targets, and to find other ways of “punishing” Ukraine. And since civilians are working in these fields, I think that constitutes a war crime, because deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime.

Requisitioning foodstuffs in occupied territories in time of war may constitute a war crime under Article 55 of the Geneva Convention.

Looted grain and agricultural equipment

Russian soldiers have also been accused of looting grain and agricultural machinery.

A local businessman told CNN on May 2 that Russian servicemen stole $5 million worth of John Deere-branded farm equipment from a specialty store in Melitopol. , a city occupied by Russian forces since early March. Two combine harvesters, a tractor and a seeder were first stolen, then, in the following weeks, all of the store’s equipment disappeared.

The culprits probably did not foresee that the machines were equipped with GPS beacons. On March 31, the store owners managed to track the stolen machines to a village near Grozny, in the Republic of Chechnya, Russia.

A convoy of Russian trucks carrying agricultural machinery was also filmed in a video shared on May 1 on social networks. Among the equipment, in the green and yellow colors of the John Deere brand, we recognize in particular two tractors and a combine harvester. The video was filmed in the south of Russia, in the republic of Ingushetia (location here).


According to the Twitter account @Kargolow, visual elements present in the video make it possible to confirm that these are indeed Russian vehicles. The trucks are marked with the letters “Z” (visible at 0:07 and 0:12 of the video above), typically seen on Russian military vehicles since the start of the offensive. Moreover, the convoy is escorted by Russian police cars (visible at 0:15 of the video).

Looking at the trees and storefronts visible along the street in the video, @Kargolow was able to determine that the convoy is heading east, towards Chechnya.


Russian armed forces have also been accused of taking grain from Melitopol warehouses and loading them into trucks, according to the city’s former mayor Ivan Fedorov.

Caitlin Welsh also points out: “We are hearing reports that Russia is also stealing Ukrainian agricultural products, including wheat, for export to Russia or to territories under Russian control, with the aim of selling it at a high price. in world markets”.

But for John Herbst, there is reason to doubt the effectiveness of the strategy to reduce Ukrainian agricultural production:

They hope to intimidate the Ukrainian population. What they have managed to do is persuade Ukrainians that they are fighting for their existence as Ukrainian people. So it just pushed the Ukrainians to redouble their efforts to achieve victory.

On May 4, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said he feared the deleterious effects of the war in Ukraine on food security and hunger in the world, in particular in the countries of the South. Ukrainian exports of agricultural products have already fallen drastically: around 4.5 million tonnes of grain were blocked in Ukrainian ports on May 2, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.



France 24-Trans

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