Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Monday address warned that there is a “threat of famine” on a global scale due to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.
Zelensky said a Russian blockade on the Black Sea was preventing exports of grain from Ukraine, which along with Russia is one of the world’s biggest producers of wheat.
“Now, due to the fact that Russia has blocked our ports in the Black Sea and seized our part of the coast of the Sea of Azov, we cannot export 22 million tons of grain that are already in warehouses in our country,” said Zelensky. “This is the volume that was to enter the foreign market.”
“And Russia’s blockade of our exports is destabilizing the situation on a global scale. As a result, food is becoming increasingly expensive in different countries. Consequently, there is a threat of famine. In Africa, in Asia, in some European countries.”
Fears of severe food shortages because of the Russian-Ukraine war have been growing as it becomes clear there is no end of the fighting in sight.
Zelensky also claimed that “the Russian invaders have already stolen at least half a million tons of grain and are now looking for ways to illegally sell it somewhere. To sell it in a way to make money on what was stolen and to keep the deficit in the legal market.”
“And this is what the Russian leadership clearly wants. They are deliberately creating this problem. So that the whole of Europe faces difficulties. And so that Ukraine does not receive billions of dollars for its exports,” he said.
Zelensky also warned that the food crisis could aggravate the migrant crisis occurring in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in late February. Millions of people have fled Ukraine amid the fighting.
Zelensky urged European governments to respond to the Russian blockade by implementing new sanctions on Russia, particularly on Russian oil.
“I believe that Europe will have to give up Russian oil and oil products in any case,” he said. “Because this is about the independence of Europeans themselves from Russian energy weapons.”
The European Union on Monday did agree to ban most imports of Russian oil. The ban is effective on Russian oil that comes in tankers, which allows E.U. members who get oil via pipelines from Russia to continue to purchase it.
Zelensky concluded his Monday address with condolences to the family and colleagues of French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was killed by shelling Monday in the Luhansk region.
Leclerc-Imhoff, who worked for French channel BFM TV, was the 32nd member of the media to be killed in Ukraine since its invasion three months ago.