United Nations, May 19 (EFE).- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war against Ukraine and putting other countries in danger with its blockade of Ukrainian agricultural exports.
“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,” Blinken said during a meeting of the UN Security Council, adding that the supply of food to millions of Ukrainians and others around the world is now literally a “hostage” of the Russian military.
Blinken accused Moscow of repeatedly blocking the supply of food and other basic products to civilians trapped in besieged cities, as well as destroying food warehouses.
“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.”
He said that Russia is flagrantly violating the Security Council resolution condemning this kind of war strategy and that this is the latest example of a government that creates hunger among civilians to try and obtain its objectives.
At the same time, he noted that the Ukrainians are not the only ones suffering the consequences of the war, given that the conflict is causing food prices to shoot up and worsening the hunger crisis that was already beginning to be experienced in numerous countries.
Blinken, who on Wednesday headed a ministerial meeting on this matter, once again demanded that Russia stop blocking the ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov so that Ukraine can export the millions of tons of grains it has warehoused and that are key in alleviating hunger in many areas of Africa and the Middle East.
In addition, he accused Moscow of threatening to halt its own exports of food and fertilizers to countries that criticize its invasion.
In that regard, he insisted that the sanctions on Russia imposed by the US and its allies are absolutely not preventing Russian sales of these products and said that Washington is working every day with its interlocutors to make clear that they have no fear about allowing those imports to continue.
In his response to the US official’s remarks, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, essentially denied each and every one of Blinken’s accusations, calling them “absolutely false.”
Regarding the alleged weeks-long blockade on the entry of food into besieged cities like Mariupol, Nebenzia said that there is “an enormous amount of evidence” that members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion were the ones who took the food and that the Russian army has been supplying humanitarian aid to local citizens.
The Russian representative also lambasted the idea that the invasion of Ukraine is aggravating the hunger crisis, claiming that the international organization has been discussing this problem for more than two years since long before the war began.
In fact, Nebenzia said that the situation is the result of Western policies and regulations, which he claimed have caused supply chain problems and speculation in the food markets, raised transportation and insurance costs and, in general, have increased inflation.
The Russian envoy also said that part of the problem is “the abrupt transition to green energy imposed on the whole world” and the sanctions against Russia, which although they are not directly attacking Moscow’s exports of food or fertilizers, are halting sales because the buyers are preferring to act with an abundance of caution.
Regarding the Black Sea embargo, Nebenzia said that his country it trying to guarantee commercial traffic in the region and that it is Ukraine who has mined those waters and is rejecting cooperating to allow the movement of vessels.
In addition, he said that exports of grains that Ukraine is making to Europe via other routes, such as by rail, are aimed at paying for the weaponry that is being delivered to Kyiv by the West and has nothing to do with the fight against hunger.