Time running out for Ukraine grain exports from blocked seaports | News

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have remained blockaded by Russian warships since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Time is running out to export some 22 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine ahead of the new harvest, Ukrainian officials say, as Russian forces continue to blockade the country’s Black Sea ports, Ukrainian officials say. know.

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blockaded since Russia sent thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24, and millions of tons of grain are still trapped in bunkers in the country.

There is no room to store the country’s next grain harvest, and warnings of a global food crisis are mounting. Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supply, while Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower and canola oils.

“We may have about a month and a half before starting to reap the new harvest,” Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniia Kravchuk said Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding no There is enough space to store the fresh harvest.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the World Economic Forum in Davos on May 25, 2022 [Fabrice Coffrini/ AFP]

Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was considered the breadbasket of the world, exporting 4.5 million tons of agricultural products a month through its ports, accounting for 12% of the planet’s wheat, 15% of the corn and half the amount of sunflower oil.

But with the ports of Odesa, Chornomorske and others cut off by Russian warships from the world, grain supplies can only move through Ukraine’s congested land routes much less efficiently.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday accused Russia of trying to “blackmail” the international community by heightening its ability to block Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in exchange for an easing of sanctions on Russia. Russia.

The Interfax news agency earlier quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying that Moscow is ready to provide humanitarian corridors for food ships leaving Ukraine in return for the lifting of some sanctions.

‘Delete extortion’

“So this is a clear blackmail case, you can’t find a better example of an extortion in international relations,” Kuleba said in a speech in Davos.

The foreign minister said that without the amount of exported grain currently in storage in the country, there would be nowhere to store it for the next harvest.

And while there will be a food crisis in some parts of the world, Ukrainian grain will rot under the open sky, he said.

“If this problem is not solved, Ukrainian farmers will not grow another crop and the whole agricultural cycle in Ukraine will be interrupted, and that would mean a crisis,” he said. food for many years.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday called for talks with Moscow on unlocking wheat exports stuck in Ukraine due to the sea blockade.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also called on Moscow to release grain stocks trapped in Ukrainian ports “in a humanitarian spirit”.

Russia “has the potential to starve many countries of the world on grain,” said Wallace during a visit to Madrid on Wednesday.

“People around the world are relying on that grain to feed themselves,” he said, citing Libya and Yemen as examples of countries particularly dependent on Ukrainian grain.

Port of Mariupol reopens

Russia said on Wednesday that the port of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol has reopened after Moscow’s troops took control of the city following a week-long campaign against still-still Ukrainian defense forces. stay at the Azovstal steel mill.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a news conference that the port had “started normal operation” after conducting demining.

The new Moscow-appointed city director of Mariupol, Konstantin Ivashchenko, said on Russian television that a ship carrying about 3,000 tons of metal products will soon depart from the port for the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. Russia.

Ivashchenko said that “mine clearance is taking place in the city, especially in its commercial seaport and waters”.

Ivashchenko said the port has received 4,000 workers.

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