Zelensky accuses Russia of trying to ‘return the threat of large-scale famine to Africa and Asia’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday called on the international community to push back on what he characterized as a Russian attempt to “return the threat of large-scale famine to Africa and Asia” after Moscow announced it was suspending its participation in a deal to allow Ukraine to export grain amid the ongoing conflict between the countries.
Zelensky in an address called Russia’s decision to halt its participation in the United Nations-facilitated Black Sea Grain Initiative earlier Saturday “rather predictable,” saying the country “began deliberately aggravating the food crisis back in September, when it blocked the movement of ships with our food.”
He claimed that since then 176 ships have been unable to follow the necessary routes to deliver grain to the right destinations.
“This is an absolutely transparent intention of Russia to return the threat of large-scale famine to Africa and Asia,” he said.
Russia’s “deliberate blockade” of ships is preventing Ukraine from providing the millions of tons of food to countries in need of the exports, he said.
“Literally today, more than 2 million tonnes of food are in the sea. This means that access to food has actually worsened for more than 7 million consumers,” said Zelensky.
Those countries include Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Bangladesh and Vietnam, among others, which “can all be equally destabilized by this Russian decision to block exports,” according to the Ukrainian leader.
Zelensky also claimed that the Kremlin had launched attacks on the Ukrainian Naval Forces “at least twice” before the larger country pulled out of the initiative, citing an attack on one of its warships Saturday morning.
“But why a handful of people somewhere in the Kremlin can decide whether people in Egypt or Bangladesh will have food on their tables?” Zelensky asked.
“The world has the power to protect people against this,” he continued.
The president urged a “strong international response” against Russia from the UN and the intergovernmental G20 forum.
“How can Russia be among the G20 if it is deliberately working for starvation on several continents?” implored Zelensky, calling the country’s membership in the group “nonsense.”
“All partners … see what Russia did to disrupt the grain initiative. They see that even ships with grain, which are contracted within the framework of the UN Food Program for the poorest countries, do not get a guaranteed opportunity to pass through the sea route,” he continued, urging the other members of the G20 to take action against Russia.
“Russian terror and blackmail must lose. Humanity must win.”