Russian Federation Attacks on Ukrainian Ports Risk Far-Reaching Impacts for Food in Developing Countries, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council
The Russian Federation’s attacks on Ukrainian port facilities are a further blow to global food security following Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as speakers condemned attempts to weaponize food and the politicization of humanitarian need.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said that the Russian Federation’s decision to terminate its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative added to existing agricultural, energy and financial crises that are already severely impacting the world’s most vulnerable people. “We have now witnessed a further blow to global food security, as Russia — for the fourth consecutive day — struck Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv with missiles and drones, destroying critical port infrastructure, facilities and grain supplies,” she reported, adding that this new wave of attacks risks far-reaching impacts on global food security, particularly in developing countries.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, similarly pointed out that higher prices will be most acutely felt by families in developing countries, who tend to spend a much higher share of their household income on food. Global grain prices have spiked, threatening to undo the hard-won progress achieved over the past year and push millions of people into hunger. Wheat and corn futures have risen by almost 9 and 8 per cent, respectively, and 19 July saw the largest single-day increase in wheat prices since the full-scale invasion commenced. “The humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold in Ukraine — and that reverberates around the world — must end,” he asserted.
Also briefing the Council was Mikhail Khazin, an independent macroeconomist, who said the grain deal was commercial and not humanitarian in nature, with a “trivial” impact on delivery to poor countries. Yet, as the market is currently unbalanced, it is impossible to establish a stable prognosis for the situation. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the Russian Federation’s participation in the grain deal has a far-greater impact on the market than that of Ukraine, warning that sanctions imposed against Moscow are making grain production unprofitable and will constitute “a real disaster” in the market.
As Council members took the floor, many warned against the repercussions of the Russian Federation’s termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, also condemning Moscow’s recent strikes against facilities in Odesa and other Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Some spotlighted the global reach of the likely effects of these events, urging a return both to the initiative and to peace talks.
The representative of the United States stated that, by weaponizing food, the Russian Federation is “using the Black Sea as blackmail, holding humanity hostage”. Echoing her concerns, the representative of the United Kingdom, Council President for July, speaking in her national capacity, described Moscow’s withdrawal as a “stab in the back” for countries in the Horn of Africa, that are already impacted by drought. France’s representative added that, by blocking exports from Ukrainian ports, Moscow is increasing the profit from its own exports to finance its war of aggression against Ukraine.
Gustavo Manrique, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, pointed out that, even a few weeks after the war began, its regional and global consequences were emerging as a central concern for Latin America and the Caribbean. Stressing that attacks on humanitarian responders and their headquarters — including in Odesa and Mykolaiv — must stop, he further insisted that the Russian Federation allow humanitarian access in zones under its temporary control.
The representative of Ukraine said that, after undermining the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Russian Federation deliberately destroyed Ukraine’s capability to export grain through missile and drone strikes that have mainly targeted ports, infrastructure and storage facilities. Spotlighting Moscow’s declaration that it would attack all merchant vessels in Black Sea waters headed to Ukrainian ports, he called on partners to fully support his country’s initiative to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor in the Black Sea.
The representative of the Russian Federation, meanwhile, stressed that Moscow “will immediately re-join the grain deal” under one condition — the full implementation of all agreed-upon principles relating to its participation in that agreement. These include, inter alia, the lifting of sanctions on the provision of its grain and fertilizers to global markets, the lifting of obstacles imposed on its banks and the return of the initial humanitarian nature of the Black Sea Grain Initiative — for the benefit of countries in need, instead of “making wealthy countries wealthier”.
On that, China’s representative noted that Moscow has repeatedly stated its willingness to consider resuming the initiative if substantive progress can be made in eliminating obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports. The fundamental way to solve the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is to achieve a political settlement, he said, calling on parties to the conflict to resume peace talks and on the international community to create favourable conditions in that regard.
The representative of Mozambique, similarly, said that all parties to and guarantors of the initiative should follow the Secretary-General’s example, who committed to facilitating the transport of food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to international markets. “Once again, we are in the presence of one more lesson that bears testimony to the fact that humanitarian problems require a political solution,” he observed, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said that the Russian Federation’s decision to terminate its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative has resulted in rising food prices around the globe. Further, it has added to existing agricultural, energy and financial crises that are already severely impacting the world’s most vulnerable people. “We have now witnessed a further blow to global food security, as Russia — for the fourth consecutive day — struck Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv with missiles and drones, destroying critical port infrastructure, facilities and grain supplies,” she reported. These attacks have also resulted in civilian casualties, she added, noting that one person was reportedly killed and at least eight others were injured in Odesa, and that two were reportedly killed and 19 injured in Mykolaiv.
“We strongly condemn these attacks and urge Russia to stop them immediately,” she stressed, recalling the Secretary-General’s statement that the bombardment of Black Sea ports in Ukraine contradicts the Russian Federation’s commitments under its memorandum of understanding with the United Nations. The new wave of attacks on Ukrainian ports risks far-reaching impacts on global food security, particularly in developing countries. Pointing out that attacks against civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, she stressed: “Threats regarding potential targeting of civilian vessels navigating in the Black Sea waters are unacceptable.” Voicing concern over reports of mines laid in the Black Sea, she urged restraint from any further rhetoric or action that could deteriorate the already-dangerous situation. “Any risk of conflict spill-over as a result of a military incident in the Black Sea – whether intentional or by accident — must be avoided at all costs, as this could result in potentially catastrophic consequences to us all,” she warned.
Pointing to a tragic pattern of attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure, she reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) has documented damage to over 1,000 health-care facilities. Since the start of the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has verified damage to 270 cultural sites, including 116 religious sites. Further, 3,467 educational institutions have suffered from bombing and shelling, with 335 of them destroyed. Also, according to UNESCO, 12 journalists and media workers have been killed since the start of the war. She highlighted that children in Ukraine continue to be disproportionately affected by the appalling high level of grave violations and are being killed and maimed by the use of explosive weapons with wide areas of effect in populated areas. Millions of Ukrainians, including nearly two thirds of Ukrainian children, have been forced to leave their homes.
She also spotlighted other issues, such as the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on 6 June and subsequent flooding, the worsening of the already volatile situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and the threat posed by unexploded ordnance, landmines and cluster munitions, which reportedly contaminate one third of the country. “The events of the past week are but the latest developments in the Russian Federation’s senseless war against its neighbour, a war with consequences that can be felt around the world,” she stressed. Warning that Moscow’s termination of its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative — coupled with its bombardment of crucial ports — will further compound the crisis, she said the United Nations will not cease efforts to facilitate unimpeded access to global markets for food and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation. “The only way to halt the catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine is to forge an end to the war based on international law and the principles enshrined in the Charter, and in line with General Assembly resolutions,” she underscored.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reported that an unprecedented $55 billion is required to meet the needs of the 362 million people in 69 countries who need humanitarian aid, with many humanitarian plans remaining severely underfunded. “For millions of people around the world, the margins are fine, and their capacity to withstand further setbacks is limited,” he said. “Almost exactly one year ago to the day, we celebrated the signing of the Black Sea [Grain] Initiative and the Memorandum of Understanding on Russian food and fertilizer exports,” he recalled, citing these agreements as “a decisive international response” to spiralling food prices around the world. However, their signing represented more than that — it was a demonstration that the international community could achieve innovative, daring solutions that “put humanity above politics”, even in the most extreme circumstances.
In the space of 12 months, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has enabled the safe export of close to 33 million metric tons of food from Ukrainian Black Sea ports to 45 countries aboard more than 1,000 outbound vessels, he continued. It has allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to transport more than 725,000 metric tons of wheat in support of food-assistance operations in Afghanistan, Djibouti Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The Memorandum of Understanding has also delivered concrete results over the past year, supporting increased volumes of Russian Federation agricultural products reaching global markets. Together, the Istanbul agreements contributed to sustained and essential reductions in global food prices.
Against this backdrop, he described the Russian Federation’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative as “immensely disappointing”. Further, recent developments have been alarming: Moscow’s strikes against port facilities in Odesa and other Ukrainian ports are reported to have injured civilians and damaged infrastructure essential to the export of food. “Ukrainian farmers anxiously look on as they harvest crops nurtured in the shadow of war,” he stated. Global grain prices have spiked, threatening to undo the hard-won progress achieved over the past year and push millions of people into hunger. Wheat and corn futures have risen by almost 9 and 8 per cent, respectively, and 19 July saw the largest single-day increase in wheat prices since the full-scale invasion commenced. Much of the world relies on the affordability of these staples, which is under threat yet again. Higher prices will be most acutely felt by families in developing countries, who tend to spend a much higher share of their household income on food.
“The humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold in Ukraine — and that reverberates around the world — must end,” he asserted, adding that the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian ports and elsewhere may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law. Underscoring that food and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and the Russian Federation remain of crucial importance to global food security, he said the United Nations will continue its engagement with all involved to ensure that their food and fertilizer can continue to reach global markets. Accordingly, unified international support is essential, he emphasized, commending Türkiye’s tireless efforts in support of the Black Sea Initiative. Recalling the 362 million people who need humanitarian aid, he observed that “some will go hungry, some will starve and many may die as a result of these decisions”. He therefore implored the Council – and the world beyond it — to restore the spirit of “the beacon of hope that these two agreements represented”.
MIKHAIL KHAZIN, an independent macroeconomist, said that, unfortunately, there are no objective criteria for assessing market costs in connection with the Black Sea Grain Initiative. When the deal was struck, there was a significant reduction in market costs. However, the beginning of the deal coincided with a forecast for future harvests that was favourable in terms of cost. “So, there is nothing surprising there,” he said. The commercial export of grain — not humanitarian in nature — has had a “trivial” impact on delivery to poor countries, he said, adding that the impact of the grain deal is therefore not very significant. Yet, as the market is currently excessively unbalanced, it is impossible to establish a stable prognosis and forecast for the situation. He nevertheless said that the Russian Federation accounts for one third of grain exports — 30 million tons — under the deal, pointing out that its withdrawal would result in a market collapse.
Against that backdrop, he warned that sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation are making grain production in that country unprofitable — a situation that will significantly reduce next year’s grain delivery and constitute “a real disaster” in the market. Although the United Nations and the United States maintain that food and fertilizers are not subject to sanctions, pressure is so strong that economic operators refuse to cooperate with the Russian Federation on the provision of these goods. This will inevitably result in a significant shortage of grain in the global market in a year or two, and it is possible that the single global food market will collapse and disband into regional markets. The Russian Federation’s participation in the grain deal has a far-greater impact on the market than that of Ukraine, he stressed.
GUSTAVO MANRIQUE, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, deplored the Russian Federation’s announcement that it would suspend its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Since the beginning of the invasion, the Secretary-General warned of the global consequences that the conflict would have, he recalled, noting that his country hosted a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) regional conference in March 2022 — only a few weeks after the war began. Even then, regional and global consequences were emerging as a central concern for Latin America and the Caribbean, he said. Any threat or attack against civilian vessels in the Black Sea would be unacceptable, and he voiced concern over the increasing impact of the invasion on agriculture and rural livelihoods in Ukraine. Stressing that attacks on humanitarian responders and their headquarters — including in Odesa and Mykolaiv — must stop, he further insisted that the Russian Federation allow humanitarian access in zones under its temporary control.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that Moscow has crossed a new threshold in cynicism and irresponsibility — after endangering global food security by attacking Ukraine, it ended the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Since then, it has shelled the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv, and while millions of people are suffering from hunger, it has already destroyed more than 60,000 tons of grain. That country also announced, via its Ministry of Defence, that “all vessels heading for Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea will be considered, from 20 July at midnight onwards, as potentially transporting military goods or equipment”. The Russian Federation, therefore, shoulders responsibility for global food insecurity, and he recalled that the initiative enabled the export of nearly 33 million tons of grain in one year — more than half of which went to low- and middle-income countries. By blocking exports from Ukrainian ports and driving up agricultural and food prices, Moscow is increasing the profit from its own exports to finance its war of aggression against Ukraine, he stressed.
RITA OSEI (Ghana), expressing disappointment at the non-renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said that diplomats however possess the capacity to bring hope where it has been lost. Additional efforts are needed by the United Nations and all countries to help address the concerns that have consistently been expressed with regards to the ancillary memorandum, especially relating to the export of Russian Federation ammonia to global markets and the export of agricultural products and fertilizers. Despite its limitations, the grain deal has contributed to stabilizing global food prices since July 2022, through the export of more than 32 million tons of food commodities from Ukraine. To avoid the knock-on effects of the deal’s termination, efforts must be intensified to finding peace acceptable to both parties. The further militarization of the conflict is not likely to change the dynamics on the ground, but would only prolong the suffering on both sides and the misery of the world. To consider the possibility of other options may not be a realistic choice, she argued.
HANS MARTEN DIABA (Gabon) warned that the armed conflict in Ukraine is about to take another turn, just as dangerous as the previous one. The quadripartite agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, under the aegis of the United Nations and Turkey, guaranteed the safe export of grain via the Black Sea for a whole year, and has made it possible to avoid a spike in grain prices and the risk of food insecurity in certain regions such as the Horn of Africa, which suffers from recurrent drought. However, today, instability could worsen with the proliferation of crises, particularly humanitarian crises. He urged all parties to truly engage in efforts to promote dialogue towards a diplomatic and economic solution that benefits everyone. He also urged the Secretary-General to continue his discussions with all parties to break the current deadlock.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that, before “the special military aggression”, Ukraine accounted for 12 per cent of corn and around 10 per cent of wheat exports. It produced enough food to feed 400 million people per year, mainly in countries in Africa and the Middle East. Since the invasion, however, those millions needed to have permission from the Russian Federation to have their usual food. The Black Sea Grain Initiative — “a beacon of reason in an ocean of despair” — eased global markets, stabilized prices and calmed the world. However, the Kremlin is now conditioning any future participation in the grain deal on relief from the European Union’s sanctions, he said, stressing that “killing the deal equals to playing ‘Russian roulette’ with the food of the poor and the needs of the hungry”.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), echoing the various condemnations of the Russian Federation’s strikes against the port facilities in Odesa and other Black Sea ports in Ukraine, warned that Moscow’s decision on the grain initiative has repercussions far beyond Ukraine. The agreements signed in Istanbul a year ago have proved vital for food security worldwide, marking “one of the few moments of hope” since the start of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine. It proved that even in the darkest hours, solutions can be found in the interests of a wider goal — a reminder that humanity and consideration for the most vulnerable must and can prevail. This week’s events are contrary to what have been called for since February 2022. This escalating trend must imperatively stop, she implored.
GENG SHUANG (China) said the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the memorandum of understanding on Russian Federation food and fertilizer exports should be implemented in a balanced, comprehensive and effective manner. The reasonable concerns of the parties should be addressed, he added, noting that Moscow has repeatedly stated its willingness to consider resuming the initiative if substantive progress can be made in eliminating obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports. The fundamental way to solve the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is to achieve a political settlement, and he therefore called on parties to the conflict to resume peace talks as soon as possible and on the international community to create favourable conditions in that regard. On the Ukrainian issue, he said that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries should be safeguarded, and that the reasonable security concerns of all parties should be taken seriously.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) recalled that, last week, the Russian Federation unilaterally blocked the compromise resolution that would have extended the cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syrians in dire need. This week, it suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an arrangement that has helped to feed the world’s most vulnerable — particularly in the Middle East and Africa. On 19 July, the Kremlin unleashed missiles and drones on Ukrainian ports, killing and wounding civilians and destroying 60,000 tons of grain — enough to feed more than 270,000 people for a year. The Russian Federation is “waging war on the world’s food supply”, she said, adding: “we cannot become numb” to Moscow’s “campaign of cruelty”. By weaponizing food, the Russian Federation’s forces have turned Ukraine’s wheat fields into battlefields. The country has zero legitimate reasons to suspend its participation in this arrangement, she said, stressing it is simply “using the Black Sea as blackmail, holding humanity hostage”.
MARTINS MARIANO KUMANGA (Mozambique) expressed concern that the suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative will amplify socioeconomic stresses in a world already grappling with conflict, climate change and a dwindling confidence in collective ability to negotiate and adhere to multilateral solutions. He noted that 3 per cent of exports under the initiative have gone to low-income countries, while around 44 per cent have gone to high-income countries and the rest to middle-income States. All parties to and guarantors of the initiative should follow the example set by the Secretary-General, who reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to facilitating the transport of food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to international markets. “Once again, we are in the presence of one more lesson that bears testimony to the fact that humanitarian problems require a political solution,” he said, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) voiced regret that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has not been extended and commended the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General and the United Nations to facilitate the continued transport of food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to international markets. “The Black Sea Grain Initiative was borne out of extensive diplomatic efforts and dialogue, one of very few positive developments amidst the shadow of war in Ukraine throughout the past 18 months,” he underscored, stressing that now is not the time to walk away, but rather time to build on any positive steps to secure a new way forward. Ultimately, only just and sustainable peace will help rectify the turmoil both within and beyond Ukraine. This is what the overwhelming majority of Member States have called for — a peace that is in line with the Charter of the United Nations and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, he underscored.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) described Moscow’s unilateral decision to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative as “yet another regrettable example of the politicization of humanitarian needs”, that will only exacerbate the global food security crisis. The weaponization of food is unconscionable, she stressed, adding that it is essential to restore the grain deal, rebalance the global food market and contribute to Ukraine’s export of grains to countries that need it the most. Since its implementation, the Initiative ensured the safe passage of over 32 million metric tons of food commodities from Ukrainian ports. Despite the Russian Federation’s claims to the contrary, over half of the grain, and two thirds of the wheat, from the Initiative has gone to developing countries, including the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Yemen and Afghanistan. Further, she strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s recent attack against the southern Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk, which destroyed 60,000 tons of wheat destined for China and grain export infrastructure.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) voiced concern over the adverse effects that the Russian Federation’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative will have on global food supplies, particularly for the most vulnerable. It is alarming to witness higher volatility in global wheat prices following that country’s actions, he said, condemning its attacks on Ukrainian Black Sea ports that resulted in numerous civilian casualties and the destruction of 60,000 tons of grain destined for export. Accordingly, he urged Moscow to cease the weaponization of food and promptly return to the international framework to resume grain exports. He added that Japan, for its part, has committed more than $250 million to facilitate Ukraine’s grain exports and to provide food-related assistance to vulnerable people in places such as the Middle East and Africa.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, out of 32 million tons of exports, 70 per cent entered high- and upper-middle-income countries, whereas the poorest — Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia — received less than 3 per cent. This geography demonstrates that this humanitarian initiative was commercial. Further, he stressed that not one of those claiming that Moscow is starving the world moved a finger to ensure free deliveries of Russian Federation fertilizers. Contrary to the agreements, Ukraine and its Western patrons capitalized on the humanitarian corridors to attack Russian Federation military and civilian facilities, he said, underscoring that the United Nations has not assessed these actions. “You want us to tolerate this?”, he asked, stating that Moscow now views all ships proceeding to Black Sea waters and Ukrainian ports as carriers of military cargo. Noting the Secretary-General’s reaction to his country’s successful strikes in Odesa and Mykolaiv, he asked whether a similar response could be expected on “Kyiv’s sabotage of the Tolyatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline, whose potential to food security was already mentioned today”.
He went on to say that Moscow stands ready to re-join the initiative under one condition — the full implementation of all agreed-upon principles relating to the Russian Federation’s participation in that agreement. These include, inter alia, the lifting of sanctions on the provision of Russian Federation grain and fertilizers to global markets; the lifting of obstacles imposed on Russian Federation banks, including immediate connection to SWIFT; the resumption of deliveries to the Russian Federation of spare parts for agriculture and fertilizer production; and the return of the initial humanitarian nature of the Black Sea Grain Initiative — for the benefit of countries in need, instead of “making wealthy countries wealthier”. He said that, as soon as this condition is met, the Russian Federation “will immediately re-join the grain deal”.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil), expressing great concern over the attacks of recent days against facilities on the Black Sea coast, stressed that destruction of civilian infrastructure is against international humanitarian law and should not be used as a tool by any conflicting part. The Council heard repeated demands for developing countries to take a position on one side of the war. However, those who make these demands do not seem to listen carefully to the positions that have been presented here and elsewhere on the complex causes and worldwide consequences of the conflict, noting that at the General Assembly debate on Ukraine earlier this week, the representative of a Member State rightly observed that the voices of the global South must be heard. Encouraging all parties to resume negotiations on the grain initiative, he also urged the parties to refrain from actions that could disrupt the unimpeded flow of food and fertilizers.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), Council President for July, speaking in her national capacity, recalled that her country’s Foreign Secretary has said the Russian Federation’s termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative was “taking food out of the mouths of the poorest people” across the world. With 64 per cent of the 34 million tons of grain exported under the deal going to low- and middle-income countries, a Kenyan Government official called Moscow’s withdrawal a “stab in the back” of countries in the Horn of Africa already impacted by drought. Now the Russian Federation has gone further, burning food at the dockside, and firing missiles on Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv and destroying over 60,000 tons of grain, enough to feed 270,000 people for a year or to double the World Food Programme (WFP) shipments to both Sudan and Somalia. It will also affect Council members, like China, the largest single importer of grain under the deal. Russian Federation food and fertilizer exports have never been sanctioned. The Kremlin has extinguished the Secretary-General’s “beacon of hope” and darkened the prospects of starving people around the world. “Food is not a weapon,” she declared.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) noted that, after undermining the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Russian Federation deliberately destroyed Ukraine’s capability to export grain through missile and drone strikes that have mainly targeted ports, infrastructure and storage facilities. From 18 to 20 July, the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine with 56 cruise missiles and 87 drones of Iranian origin, he said, adding that Russian Federation strikes destroyed 66 tons of grain in Chornomorsk alone. On 20 July, the Russian Federation continued its missile terror, resulting in the destruction of 100 tons of peas and 20 tons of barley. Pointing to Moscow’s sly purpose, he said that Margarita Simonyan, head of Russian Federation State propaganda, openly stated at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum that “all our hope is for the famine”. Expert assessments warn of a further increase in corn and wheat prices in the short run, along with a significant impact on global prices for sunflower oil.
Noting the difficulty in shooting down Russian Federation missiles that approach targets at high speed and low altitude, he recalled that the 20 July attack in Mykolaiv hit a residential building, killing a married couple and wounding 19 civilians. Fatalities among civilians were also recorded in Odesa. On Moscow’s declaration that it would attack all merchant vessels in Black Sea waters headed to Ukrainian ports, he underscored that such an attack would be a gross violation of international law. He therefore called on partners to fully support his country’s initiative to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor in the Black Sea, and to condemn Moscow’s actions. He also called on United Nations officials to monitor and report on the illegal and forceful removal of children from Ukraine’s occupied territories following a public confession by Belarusian Red Cross officials admitting their involvement.
CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Türkiye) said that, in addition to the loss of thousands of civilian lives and millions of displaced people, the ongoing war in Ukraine continues to have negative repercussions on energy prices, supply chain disruptions and global food insecurity. The Black Sea Grain Initiative has had a stabilizing effect on the prices of grain and contributed to global food security for almost one year. It helped avoid a major food shortage and ease the lowest-income countries’ access to food products. Therefore, the resumption of the Initiative remains crucial to fighting global hunger and ensuring stable food prices for consumers everywhere. Its termination will be harmful to global food markets, with the countries that depend on price stability provided by the Initiative suffering the most. Both the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the memorandum of understanding are crucial for the world’s most vulnerable people, she said, expressing hope that the current suspension will be temporary and that operations will be resumed promptly.
ANDREEA MOCANU (Romania) recalled that Secretary-General António Guterres spoke about trust, solidarity and universality at the launch of his policy brief on "A New Agenda for Peace”, stating that “war is a choice”. A year and a half since its invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Federation still wages a war of choice. Similarly, defying the needs of developing countries, Moscow’s decision to denounce the grain initiative is a matter of choice. Out of the 41 million tons of grain exported from Ukraine through the European Union’s Solidarity Lanes, more than 20 million transited Romania. Together with the 32 million tons of grain exported under the deal, the total amount that left Black Sea shores exceeds 50 million tons. Against that backdrop, she stressed that the Black Sea Grain Initiative was “a win for all those participating in it and for all those benefiting from it”, and that its restoration is imperative.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, condemned the Russian Federation’s choice to torpedo the grain initiative, which further aggravates the global food crisis and causes price increases for foodstuff globally. Hundreds of millions of already vulnerable people, particularly in Africa, will pay the price. The inconvenient truth for the Russian Federation is that it is benefiting from higher global food prices. Publicly available data demonstrates that the Russian Federation’s grain exports have reached record volumes. From 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, that country’s wheat exports reached 44.7 million tons, more than 10 per cent higher than the average for previous years. Its fertilizer exports are nearing full recovery. The simple truth is that Moscow has made a cynical calculation: by blocking exports from Ukraine, it will make higher profits from its own exports.
The Russian Federation gained important benefits from the Memorandum of Understanding on food and fertilizer exports, he said. The United Nations has worked relentlessly to unblock assets, facilitate regulatory frameworks, and engage with the private sector to find dedicated solutions across the banking and insurance sectors. The European Union has spared no effort to avoid that its sanctions impact the food security of third countries through measures, such as by clarifying that transfer of Russian food and fertilizers to third countries is permitted. The Union and the United Nations have worked to build a bespoke payments mechanism for the Russian Agricultural Bank and address any specific bottlenecks and facilitate the access of food and fertilizers originating from the Russian Federation. In addition to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Union’s Solidarity Lanes have allowed the export of more than 41 million tons of Ukraine’s food and agricultural goods. The bloc is also providing €18 billion to address food security needs, he said, calling on Moscow to stop using food as a weapon and rejoin the grain deal.