Russia is committing a war crime by blocking the export of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on the sidelines of a meeting of ministers. of Foreign Affairs of the EU to discuss how to release the harvest in the midst of a global food crisis.
Ukraine is one of the world’s top suppliers of wheat, but its shipments have stagnated and more than 20 million tons of grain have been trapped in silos since Russia invaded the country in February and subsequently blockaded its ports.
Russia denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming it on Western sanctions imposed on Moscow, which have caused global food prices to rise, and United Nations warnings of famine in poorer countries that rely heavily on measure of imported grain.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Russia to open the Black Sea routes, crucial for exporting more Ukrainian grain.
“You cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat are still blocked in Ukraine while people in the rest of the world are starving,” he told reporters upon arrival at the talks in Luxembourg. “This is a true war crime.”
On June 8, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that it was up to Ukraine to solve grain shipping problems by demining approaches to its Black Sea ports and that Moscow did not have to take any action because it had already taken the necessary compromises.
The EU supports the efforts of the United Nations to negotiate an agreement to resume maritime exports from Ukraine in exchange for facilitating Russian exports of food and fertilizers, but this would require a green light from Moscow.
Meanwhile, Germany and other countries are working on enabling grain transport by land to dispose of at least part of the harvest, since the new one is starting, while part of the old one is still in the Ukrainian silos.
kyiv harvested a record 84 million tons of grain in clean weight in 2021, up from 65 million tons in 2020.
This year, farmers have sown 14.2 million hectares of spring grain, down from 16.9 million hectares in 2021 due to the Russian invasion, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin supported Poland and Romania in adapting their railways to make it easier to export grain overland.
“It is clear that, in the end, we will not be able to get all the grain out, but if we manage to even release a part, on several routes, this will help us when facing this global challenge,” he told reporters in Luxembourg.