European Commission president condemns ‘Russia’s blackmail’ on food, fuel in Ukraine war
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, on Tuesday condemned Russia’s use of hunger and grain to gain power, calling their actions “blackmail.”
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she said Russia was targeting grain warehouses in Ukraine, blocking cargo ships loaded with wheat and sunflower seeds in the Black Sea, and confiscating grain stocks and agricultural machinery.
“On top of this, Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail, holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support,” von der Leyen said.
“Global cooperation is the antidote to Russia’s blackmail,” she added.
The commission president called for a renewed focus on rising food prices by increasing Europe’s food production, while also supporting other regions like Africa hit hard by the food supply shocks.
Amid Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian officials have said the country is unable to access ample food stocks, contributing to the increase of prices globally. Ukraine is known as a bread basket of the world, and is a crucial exporter of grain and seed oil to regions including Asia and the Middle East.
“If you see increasing prices and shortages of flour and grain in your country, the reason is because Russia attacked Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba previously said, adding that the country’s “entire crop from 2021” was ready to ship if Russia stopped blocking ports.
Von der Leyen was also asked whether Russia may one day realign with Europe.
Should Russian once again adhere to the “rule of law and respect for the international, rules-based order, it’s a clear yes,” she said.
In the meantime, von der Leyen pressed for additional military spending as a priority for Europe amid the invasion.
“We have to invest much more in solid European defense capabilities,” she said, highlighting that despite NATO’s strength, European defense spending was not moving at the same pace as that of the U.S, Russia or China.
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