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US accuses Russia of weaponizing food during Ukraine war
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UNITED NATIONS – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday accused Russia of weaponizing food and holding grain for millions of people around the world hostage to help accomplish what its invasion of Ukraine did not “break the spirit of the Ukrainian people”.

He told a U.N. Security Council meeting convened by the United States that the war had disrupted maritime trade in large areas of the Black Sea and made the region unsafe for shipping, trapping exports Ukrainian farms and jeopardizing the world’s food supply.

Blinken said the meeting, which he chaired, was taking place “at a time of unprecedented global hunger” fueled by climate change and COVID-19 “and compounded by conflict.”

Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, he said, his naval operations had sought to control access to the northwest Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov and to blockade Ukrainian ports, what the United States considers “a deliberate effort” to block safe passage. and stop shipping.

“Due to the actions of the Russian government, some 20 million tonnes of grain sit idle in Ukrainian silos as global food supplies dwindle, prices soar, causing food insecurity around the world,” Blinken said. .

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called “absolutely false” claims by the United States and Western countries “that we want to starve everyone to death and that only you and Ukraine allegedly care about how to save the life of the country”.

“You claim that we are allegedly preventing agricultural products from leaving Ukraine by sea,” he said. “However, the truth is that it was Ukraine and not Russia that blocked 75 ships from 17 states in the ports of Nikolaev, Kherson, Chernomorsk, Mariupol, Ochakov, Odessa and Yuzhniy and undermined the waterways. “

Nebenzia warned that “unless this issue is resolved, we cannot speak of any opportunity to export Ukrainian grain by sea”.

He stressed that Russia remains “a responsible supplier of food and energy”.

Russia expects a record wheat harvest and can offer to export 25 million tons of grain from August 1 until the end of the year through the port of Novorossiysk, he said, and it is also ready to discuss at least 22 million tonnes of fertilizer for export. from June to December.

But Nebenzia said that more than 10,000 sanctions against Russia have disrupted transport routes, hampered the movement of Russian ships and barred them from entering ports, caused cargo and insurance problems, restricted transactions trade and created difficulties with banking transactions.

“If you don’t want to lift the sanctions of your choice, then why are you accusing us of being the cause of this food crisis? He asked. “Why do your irresponsible geopolitical games mean that the poorest countries and regions have to suffer?”

Blinken slammed Russia’s claims that sanctions are responsible for worsening the global food crisis as false, saying “the decision to militarize food is up to Moscow and Moscow alone.”

“Sanctions do not block Black Sea ports, trap ships loaded with food, or destroy Ukrainian roads and railways; Russia is,” he said. “The sanctions are not about emptying Ukrainian grain silos and stealing Ukrainian agricultural equipment; Russia is.

Blinken said the sanctions imposed by the United States and many others do not prevent Russia from exporting food and fertilizers, as they exempt exports of food, fertilizers and seeds. “And we are working with countries every day to make sure they understand that sanctions are not impeding the flow of these items,” he said.

UN food chief David Beasley has warned the Security Council that the war in Ukraine has created “an unprecedented crisis” of escalating food prices that is already sparking protests and riots and hunger that will add at least 47 million people to the 276 million “marching towards starvation” before Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.

The executive director of the World Food Program said 49 million people in 43 countries were “already knocking on the door of starvation”.

Beasley recalled that when food prices spiraled out of control in 2007 and 2008, more than 40 countries faced political unrest, riots and protests.

“We are already seeing riots and protests right now, in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru,” he said. “We have already seen destabilizing dynamics in the Sahel from Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad. These are only signs of things to come.

Beasley urged world leaders to do all they can “to bring markets to stability because things are going to get worse.”

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