Kremlin: West to blame for stopping grain deliveries via Ukraine ports, global food crisis
Russia has denounced Western countries for what it called preventing vessels carrying grain from leaving Ukraine’s Black Sea ports amid fears of a global food crisis.
In a press conference on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow “rejects" allegations by the West that Russia is to blame for preventing grain deliveries from reaching their destinations.
“We categorically reject these accusations and, on the contrary, accuse Western countries that they have taken a number of illegal actions that led to this,” he told reporters.
Since the onset of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, waves of unprecedented sanctions from the United States and its European allies have been imposed on Moscow. They are also pouring advanced weapons in Ukraine, a move that Moscow has warned would prolong the conflict.
The ongoing war, and its subsequent blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, has endangered the world food supply by preventing Ukraine from shipping its agricultural products.
Ukraine, which is a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, used to export most of its goods through its main ports on the Black and Azov seas, but since the operation began, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.
The ongoing conflict has reduced its grain exports this month by more than half compared to a year ago.
Russia and Ukraine together produce almost 30 percent of the global wheat supply.
Peskov said, “They (the West) must cancel those illegal decisions that prevent the chartering of ships, that prevent the export of grain, and so on” so that supplies can resume.
Unprecedented waves of sanctions against Russia have sent the price of grain, cooking oil, fertilizer and energy skyrocketing, hurting global growth.
On Wednesday, Russia’s defense ministry announced that it would open a safe corridor for foreign ships to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, and the port in Mariupol, adding that the corridors would be open every day.
According to Mikhail Mizintsev, who heads the National Defense Control Center under the General Staff, 70 foreign vessels from 16 countries are now in six ports on the Black Sea, including Odesa, Kherson and Mykolaiv.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko also made similar remarks, saying Moscow is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine, in return for removing some sanctions.
“We have repeatedly stated on this point that a solution to the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions,” he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Peskov said Moscow expects Kiev to yield to its demands, stressing that the Ukrainian government needs to have an awareness of the situation for peace negotiations to occur.
He was reacting to comments by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who earlier this week suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Kiev should let Moscow keep Crimea.