Ukraine today urged international efforts to keep open the Black Sea routes used to transport millions of tons of grain to African countries.
A Ukrainian envoy told the Least Developed Countries (LDC) summit in Doha, Qatar, that 2.7 million tonnes of cereals had been shipped since November, when Kyiv started its “Grain from Ukraine” programme, mainly to the poorest African countries.
Kyiv plans to send at least another 60 ships “to the countries most affected by famine and drought in Africa and Asia”, said Maksym Subkh, Ukraine’s special envoy for the Middle East and Africa.
The world’s poorest nations are paying “the heaviest price” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February last year, Subkh stressed.
Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s largest grain exporters, and after the Russian invasion a year ago, Moscow imposed a blockade on major Ukrainian ports, preventing all grain exports notably to Africa and Asia.
The blockade partly caused the rise in prices of staple foods around the world.
An agreement providing for the creation of a secure sea corridor in the Black Sea for the transport of cereals from three Ukrainian ports was signed in July, under the aegis of the UN and Turkey, and allowed the export of some 20 million tonnes of cereals.
Then the agreement was renewed in mid-November last year and expires on March 18.
“The war has aggravated the food crisis worldwide,” Maksym Subkh stressed at the Doha summit.
Western governments and the European Union (EU) have donated more than $150 million (about 142 million euros) to the “Grain from Ukraine” programme, which aims in part to disprove Moscow’s claims that Ukraine is largely responsible for the international food crisis.
The Ukrainian special envoy called on UN member states to “unite their efforts to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of the Black Sea grain corridor”, accusing Russia of having “hinted” it was ready to impose a new blockade.
Under the terms of the July agreement, Russia can, for its part, export fertiliser without Western sanctions. But Moscow insists that one part of the agreement is not being respected.
The military offensive launched on 24 February 2022 by Russia in Ukraine has so far caused the flight of more than 14.6 million people — 6.5 million internally displaced and more than 8.1 million to European countries — according to the latest figures from the UN, which ranks this refugee crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945).
Right now, at least 18 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian aid and 9.3 million need food aid and housing.
The Russian invasion – justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin with the need to “denazify” and demilitarise Ukraine for Russia’s security – has been condemned by the international community at large, which has responded by sending arms to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.
Since the beginning of the war, which entered its 377th day today, the UN has reported 8,173 civilian deaths and 13,620 wounded, stressing that these figures are far from the real ones.
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