More recently, we have noted the increasingly frequent statements by Western representatives, echoed by UN officials, on the threat of a major food crisis due to a shortage of grain and fertilisers on international markets, allegedly provoked by Russia's actions in Ukraine. Such groundless accusations have, unfortunately, become an obsessive recurring theme in the US and European officials’ remarks. In this regard, we feel compelled to once again reiterate what the real root causes of these problems are.
As far as the blockage of Ukrainian grain shipments by sea is concerned, we emphasise that Russia has never hindered the export of grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. In reality, safe navigation in Ukrainian territorial waters and the use of ports are currently impossible due to the high level of danger posed by mines and threat of shelling created by Kiev. According to available information, the Ukrainian authorities have planted about 420 anchor mines in the Black and Azov seas; some of them have floated offshore, to Bosporus and Dardanelles, and to the coastal waters of other Black Sea states, including Turkey and Romania. In addition, Kiev is holding 70 foreign ships from 16 countries in six ports – Kherson, Nikolayev, Chernomorsk, Ochakov, Odessa and Yuzhny. It is noteworthy that little is said about other ways to export grain from Ukraine: there are at least the rail and river options. The routes used to bring Western weapons into the country aren’t mentioned frequently either.
For its part, the Russian military has created the necessary conditions for the safe operation of two maritime humanitarian corridors: one in the Black Sea from the aforementioned six Ukrainian ports to the south-west from Ukraine’s waters, and the other in the Sea of Azov towards the Black Sea. Today, the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk can be used to export agricultural produce. In addition, Russia has reaffirmed its readiness to facilitate and ensure the unhindered export of Ukrainian grain by foreign vessels, provided they can be inspected for arms smuggling and given that Kiev refrains from any provocations, mine threats and aggravating tensions in the Black Sea.
As to food security, it would be worth recalling that since the beginning of 2020, food and energy prices have increased significantly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, adverse climate factors and, importantly, major miscalculations in Western countries’ financial and economic policies. Further on, the unprecedented witch hunt unleashed against Russia through sanctions exacerbated to the extreme the global market challenges that arose as a consequence (higher freight and insurance fees, disruptions of transport links, etc.). The disrupted system of payments and logistics, Russian freight barred from foreign ports and foreign ships not allowed to call at Russian ports, bulk carriers threatened with arrest and denied insurance – this is just a very basic list of destructive consequences of sanctions that have thwarted any opportunity of exporting food and fertilisers to world markets. Although Western representatives have declared humanitarian exemptions for agricultural products, in fact, these measures are nullified by strict enforcement of the anti-Russia sanctions, which goes as far as criminal prosecution for non-compliance with the accompanying effect of intimidation. Their goal is obvious – to isolate and cause maximum damage to the Russian economy, despite the inevitable consequences for the global economy and the collateral damage for other countries.
In turn, we reaffirm our readiness to continue to fulfil our obligations to export grain, fertilisers, energy resources and other critical products. By the end of this year, we will be able to supply about 25 million tonnes of grain and at least 22 million tonnes of fertilisers to international markets.
Despite the unprecedented sanctions pressure, we continue commercial food supplies through bilateral channels and the provision of food assistance to countries that need support under the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in particular to Yemen, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Sudan, Tajikistan and Cuba.
In this regard, we urge representatives of Western countries and the UN to refrain from groundless accusations and to see the real causes of the current crisis provoked primarily by their own short-sighted and misguided actions.