WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration is now accusing Russia of contributing to a global food crisis as they end an agreement to keep grain from getting out of Ukraine.
Ukraine is a major grain producer. Their grain exports help many developing countries where they face serious food insecurities. But this week, the Kremlin announced it was ending an agreement that allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported by sea. Without this deal in place, officials said Russia is using food as a weapon and exacerbating food scarcity, hiking up global food prices and harming millions of vulnerable people.
“More than half of that 33 million metric tons of grain and food (inaudible) that have been shipped through the initiative have gone to developing countries,” said NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby.
Around this time last year, the United Nations and Turkey helped Russia and Ukraine reach the so-called “Black Sea Grain Initiative”. It’s a rare wartime agreement that allowed Ukraine’s grain to pass through Russia’s naval blockade in the Black Sea. After the agreement was made, Russia has threatened several times to pull out of it. They accuse Ukraine of attacking Russian civilian and military facilities in the Black Sea areas. The Kremlin denies that the decision to end this agreement is not in response to a recent attack on a critical bridge connecting occupied Crimean peninsula to mainland Russia, essentially cutting off a Russian supply route for their troops in southern Ukraine. According to The New York Times, Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the damage to the bridge but Ukrainian officials have kept silent on whether it played a role. Russia said until their demands are met the grain deal is off. Officials worry about a lack of other options to get grain out.
“I hope every country is watching this very closely,’ said Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. “They will see that Russia is responsible for denying food to people who desperately need it around the world and contribute to rising prices at a time when many countries continue to experience inflation.”
Officials said getting grain out over land like by trucks or rail is very complicated because no place over land in Ukraine is safe. That’s why officials stress the best option is through the Black Sea. Turkey’s president said he would speak to Russian president Vladimir Putin about the agreement and hopes that their conversation could restart this grain agreement.