Lawmaker: Time running out to end Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s food

By Jake Threadgould

Madrid, Jun 30 (EFE).- Nato leaders must work urgently to bring an end to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian food exports through political or military means, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko told Efe at the Alliance summit taking place in Madrid.

Goncharenko, who represents a district of Odesa, in the country’s south, as a member of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, warned that millions could starve if a solution is not found.

“The situation is very difficult, it is a challenge and threat to the whole world,” the member of the European Solidarity party, which is led by former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, told Efe in an interview at the Nato summit.

“The main gates for Ukrainian agricultural exports are the three ports of Odesa, and today they are blocked and it means that millions of people are starving in the world and already dying of hunger because of this.

“What we will have in the future — hunger, riots, social unrest, new waves of refugees to Spain to France to the European Union from North Africa, the Middle East — that is a huge challenge and that is absolutely inhumane politics from Putin,” he added.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization last month warned that up to 25 million tons of grain were stuck in Ukraine due to Russia’s blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports and infrastructural issues due to the conflict.

North African and Middle Eastern nations that were acutely dependent on Ukrainian food products before the Russian invasion — Egypt, for example, imported 82% of its grain from Ukraine, according to UN figures — now face severe food shortages and rising prices as the flow of crucial resources slows to a halt.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres this month warned that the Russian blockade could spark an “unprecedented wave of hunger and misery.”

Goncharenko believes that the solution to the blockade must be military or political.

“Nato countries can create convoys that will take Ukrainian grain from ports and through the Bosporus, the second military option is to give Ukraine as many hard weapons and we will destroy the Russian fleet in the Black Sea ourselves, but it will take time and time is crucial.”

“And the second option (…) is political, to find some leverage on Putin. For example, every day millions of barrels of Russian oil crosses the Bosporus, why can’t we say ‘either Ukrainian grain and your oil is coming or nothing is coming’.”

Negotiations to end the blockade, hosted by Turkey under the auspices of the UN, have so far failed to yield a solution.

Ukraine’s inability to export much of its crop also spells trouble for the coming harvest, the lawmaker told Efe.

“Time is crucial — the new harvest season has already started in Ukraine and soon Ukrainian farmers will not have (any)where to store their new grain because the old grain from the previous year is not delivered, so the situation is very difficult,” Goncharenko said.


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