Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday called for renewed international pressure to get Russia to end its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and allow exports needed to avert a global food crisis.
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Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue conference on security in the Asia-Pacific region, he warned via video that “without a resumption of Ukrainian exports, the world will face a serious food crisis and even famine in many countries Asia and Africa”.
Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil and one of the main exporters of wheat. Millions of tons of grain are currently blocked in Ukraine because they cannot be exported due to the Russian blockade.
The United Nations and some countries are pushing for the opening of a sea corridor that will allow Ukrainian exports to resume.
“Food shortages will inevitably lead to political chaos, which could lead to the fall of many governments,” he told Singapore delegates scheduled to attend the conference, including Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and China’s defense minister.
Kyiv is currently in talks with the United Nations, Turkey and other countries to open such a corridor for grain exports. For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara this week on the matter, but for the moment there is no progress.
Ukraine, Mr Zelensky said, currently exports two million tons of grain by train every month, but this is well below what it normally exports.
For its part, France said it was ready to help lift the blockade of Ukraine’s port of Odessa to get the blocked grain out of Ukraine while deadly fighting raged in the south and east of the country.
“We are at the disposal of the parties so that, basically, an operation is set up to allow access to the port of Odessa in complete safety, that is, to allow boats to pass, even though the sea is mined,” said an adviser to President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.