© Reuters. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken chairs a United Nations Security Council meeting on food insecurity and conflict at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia on Thursday of using food as a weapon in Ukraine by holding “hostage” the food supply for not just millions of Ukrainians, but also millions around the world who rely on Ukrainian exports.
Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Blinken appealed to Russia to stop blockading Ukrainian ports. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 to carry out what Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
“The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not – to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage by the Russian military.”
The war in Ukraine has caused global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer to soar.
Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus – which has backed Moscow in its war in Ukraine – account for more than 40% of global exports of potash, a crop nutrient.
Blinken rejected Russian accusations that Western sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine war were fueling the food crisis.
“The decision to weaponize food is Moscow’s and Moscow’s alone,” Blinken said. “As a result of the Russian government’s actions some 20 million tons of grain sit unused in Ukrainian silos as global food supply dwindle, prices skyrocket, causing more around the world to experience food insecurity.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is trying to broker a “package deal” that will allow Ukraine to resume food exports through the Black Sea and revive Russian food and fertilizer production to world markets.
“There is enough food for everyone in the world. The issue is distribution, and it is deeply linked to the war in Ukraine,” Guterres told the council on Thursday.