Russia blockade of Ukraine sea ports fuelling global hunger

Smoke rises from a Russian tank in UKraine

Smoke rises from a Russian tank destroyed by the Ukrainian forces on a roadside in Lugansk region on February 26, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

When I first came to Kenya as the Ambassador of Ukraine, which was long before the terrible tragedy of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of my country, I had the opportunity to visit one of the beautiful game parks.

And while being driven around those endless rolling plains of the African savannah, I remember wondering if the vast plains of my own country had once looked like this, perhaps a few hundred years ago: full of wild animals and breathtakingly beautiful.

This is among the reasons why up to very recently, Ukraine had established regular charter flights to Mombasa, bringing in tourists to this beautiful country. They came not only to relax on the beach but also to drive up to some of your game parks on safari, to view the remarkable Kenyan wildlife.

For although we have similar wide open plains in Ukraine, in my country such plains also have some of the richest soils. And so, we have long dedicated such land to growing various crops and above all, wheat. We do not have wild animals roaming our open plains. Just a bountiful harvest of wheat gently swaying in the wind.

Wheat harvests

And right now, this issue of Ukrainian wheat harvests and exports is of great global interest.

Russia, through its diplomatic representatives, continues to spread disinformation and fake news in the Kenyan press, desperately trying to persuade the readers of their “reliability”.

A recent article in the local media is another of Russia’s attempts to show itself as the knight in a shining armour to cover up their atrocities in Ukraine. Now those traitors of humanity are threatening the world with the food crisis, and trying to manipulate opinion.

The good thing is that to refute these lies we do not need to invent anything, just to provide the real facts:

Indeed, the food security situation, for the most vulnerable, has over the past years been aggravated by the impact of Covid-19. Nevertheless, instead of recovery from an impact of the pandemic the world has faced a new threat — Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike what the Russian propaganda states, Russians do in fact block agricultural exports from Ukraine by sea. Due to this blockade of Ukrainian seaports by the Russian Navy, as well as by putting mines on major shipping routes, the export of Ukrainian grain has practically stopped.

As Ukraine has now lost the opportunity to export agricultural products by sea, about 22 million tons of grain are stuck in ports and cannot reach consumers, especially in Africa and Asia.

In order to resolve the issue, Ukraine discussed with partners ways to establish an international mission under the auspices of the United Nations, which will take over the functioning of maritime routes for the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods.

A number of countries have already expressed their willingness to join the process of restoring security in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea. We call on countries whose food security may suffer most from Russia's aggression against Ukraine, to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports.

Another striking threat is Russians seizing Ukrainian grain. The Russian invaders have already stolen at least 400-500,000 tons of grain. Almost all grain-laden ships departing from Sevastopol are loaded with stolen Ukrainian commodities. Moreover, having no shame, they have already illegally sold a part of the stolen grain on international markets.

In this connection, Ukraine has already warned countries that grain consignments exported by Russia could contain stolen Ukrainian grain and any country that purchases this grain will be considered to be complicit in the crime.

Obviously, considering that a large area in the East and South of Ukraine remains a place of combat actions, according to preliminary estimations, the harvest in 2022 will be definitely smaller in size than the last year’s yields.

This is also a direct consequence of Russia’s attacks, since one cannot grow wheat for bread under the bullets. Nevertheless, I assure you, that Ukrainian farmers do their best so that we could ensure enough food for everyone.

On June 3, 2022, Ukrainians marked the 100th day of our fearless resistance to Russia’s aggression. Russia's offensive in Ukraine has killed thousands of people, destroyed cities along with its vital infrastructure, displaced millions of others, including children.

Blood of innocents

No matter how many times the Russians will try to persuade the world of their innocence, or how much they invest in their propaganda and fake news, their crimes are obvious and the whole world knows that they have the blood of innocents on their hands.

At this point, let me quote a statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UN Security Council open debate on Food Security on May 19: “This war is a war of choice. Choice of President Putin. It will be his choice as well to opt either for resolution or for aggravation of this food crisis.

And there should be no doubts of who will be responsible for starvation that millions of people could suffer in Asia, Africa, other parts of the world and in the occupied territories of Ukraine.

As soon as Russia is compelled to stop the war the looming threat of hunger will be over, in particular for the most vulnerable. Otherwise, the famine and sufferings of millions will be Putin’s total guilt”.

Pravednyk is the Ambassador of Ukraine to Kenya