Washington (The Times Groupe)- The U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken on Thursday accused Russia of holding food supplies hostage not just for Ukrainians, but for millions of people around the world as well. Ukraine
A Russian official later denied the allegations, saying the Russians “were not idiots” and would not export food while under tough sanctions.
Antony Blinken called on Russia to stop blocking Ukrainian ports in his address to the United Nations Security Council.
“The Russian government seems to think that using food supplies as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not – to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” Blinken said.
“The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage.”
Prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel, and fertilizer have skyrocketed due to the war in Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine together supply nearly a third of the world’s wheat. In addition to corn, barley, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil, Ukraine is a major exporter of potash, a crop nutrient, with more than 40% of global exports coming from Russia and Belarus – which backed Moscow in the war in Ukraine.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Russians were capable of producing food that is needed worldwide under the right conditions.
“Everything seems illogical – on one hand, crazy sanctions are introduced, and on the other hand, food is demanded,” wrote Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.
“Things don’t work like that. We are not idiots.”
Medvedev cited the need for skilled agricultural workers, as well as proper equipment and fertilizer, for producing harvests.
“Russia knows how to do this,” he wrote. “We have all the opportunities to ensure there is food in other countries, so that there are no crises. Just don’t prevent us from working.”
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed any suggestion that Russia was responsible for the global food crisis.
Nebenzia accused Ukraine of harboring foreign vessels and mining its waters.
“The decision to weaponize food is Moscow’s and Moscow’s alone,” Blinken said.
“Some 20 million tons of grain sit unused in Ukrainian silos as global food supply dwindle (and) prices skyrocket.”
A deal is under discussion between Antonio Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, and the Russian government to allow Ukraine to resume food exports and revive Russian food and fertilizer production to world markets.