Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Medvedev said Moscow will ensure food supplies to avoid a crisis if the West lifts sanctions.
“Our country is ready to fulfill its commitments, but we also look forward to the support of our trading partners, including on international platforms,” Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev told Telegram on May 19. “There is no logic for them to impose crazy sanctions on Russia on the one hand and ask us for food on the other.”
Medvedev’s comments came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the Russian military of holding hostage “food supplies” for millions of people.
“Stop blocking Black Sea ports, stop threatening to refuse food and fertilizer exports to countries that criticize your actions. Food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions of people around the world. The world has literally been taken hostage by the Russian military,” Blinken said at a United Nations Security Council meeting on April 18.
The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, countered that Moscow was being held responsible for the suffering of the whole world. According to him, the world has long been suffering from a food crisis caused by spiraling inflation, logistical difficulties and speculation in Western markets.
He said Ukrainian ports are blocked by Ukraine itself and Kyiv does not want to work with shipping companies to free dozens of foreign transport ships stuck in ports. He also condemned Western sanctions against Russia as exacerbating food insecurity around the world.
Mr. Medvedev, Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012, said that without supplies from Russia, countries importing wheat and Russian food products would face many difficulties.
“Without our fertilizers, the fields in Europe and elsewhere would only be weeds. We have every opportunity to ensure that other countries have food and that there is no food crisis. Just don’t interfere in our affairs,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned May 18 that hostilities in Ukraine could result in global food shortages in the coming months and years. Many countries will face famine for years if Ukraine’s food exports are not restored to pre-war levels.
According to him, an effective solution to the food crisis is to reintegrate Ukraine into the global food supply chain and restore supplies of fertilizers from Russia and Belarus to the world market.
The conflict has crippled Ukraine’s seaport system, which once exported large quantities of sunflower oil as well as grains such as corn and wheat. This situation reduces supply and causes prices for substitutes to skyrocket. According to the United Nations, food prices around the world are up about 30% year-on-year.
Russia and Ukraine supply about 30% of world wheat demand. Ukraine was once considered the “breadbasket of the world” with 4.5 million tons of agricultural produce exported through seaports every month.
However, Ukrainian exports plummeted as hostilities erupted, sending food prices soaring. Food prices continued to rise after India announced on May 14 that it would stop exporting wheat.
The UN estimates that around 20 million tons of grain from the previous harvest are trapped in Ukraine. If this amount of food is released, it could ease the pressure on the global food market.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it will study the possibility of opening access to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports while also considering lifting sanctions on Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reiterated the view that the food crisis was partly due to Western sanctions.
According to Zakharova, Russia continues to provide food under trade agreements and as part of humanitarian aid.
Huyen Le (Corresponding AFP, Reuters, Guardian)