‘Russia blockading grain is real war crime’

Russia’s blockade of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain was a “real war crime”, says European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief, Joseph Borrell.

“It is inconceivable – one cannot imagine that millions of tonnes of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world people are suffering from hunger,” Mr Borrell said.

“We call on Russia to open the (Ukrainian) ports.”

EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the crisis.

Western countries have demanded Russia stop blockading Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and allow vast stores of grain to reach world markets.

The blockade has sparked warnings that tens of millions of people were at risk of famine and sent food prices soaring.

Mr Borrell said Russia’s war against Ukraine had had a damaging impact worldwide, which could be witnessed through food and energy prices.

In a news conference after the meeting, he said Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports was “a deliberate attempt to create hunger in the world” and place additional pressure on the EU and Ukraine.

According to Mr Borrell, EU foreign ministers will be contacting their counterparts across the African continent about sanctions on Russia.

He rejected Russia’s claim that the current food crisis was as a result of EU sanctions, adding that EU sanctions “don’t forbid” countries outside of the EU from taking place in food trade practices with Russia or other countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was engaged in “complex negotiations” to release its ports from Russia’s blockade.

Mr Zelensky said the global grain crisis would last as long as Russia’s “colonial war”.

He added that countries in the African Union were hostages of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ahead of the meeting in Luxembourg, Mr Borrell said: “This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer.”

He said Russia should be held “accountable” if it kept blocking the export of vitally needed grain from Ukraine.

The 27-nation bloc disputed Russia’s claims that rising prices and food shortages in the Middle East and Africa were down to EU sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Borrell added: “I want to insist that it’s not European sanctions that are creating this crisis – our sanctions don’t target food, don’t target fertilisers”. -BBC

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