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EU’s von der Leyen says Russia bombing Ukrainian grain supplies, weaponizing hunger

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accuses Russia of deliberately bombarding grain warehouses across Ukraine and using food supplies as a weapon.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created disruptions of global food supplies, with both countries two of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, barley and sunflower oil. The blockade of Ukrainian ports has been particularly harmful, with the EU saying sea shipments accounted for 90% of grain and oilseed exports before the war.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the head of the EU’s executive arm says about 20 million tons of wheat are stuck in Ukraine.

Von der Leyen says exports typically amount to 5 million tons of wheat per month, and are now down to 200,000 to 1 million tons. She says “by getting it out, we can provide Ukrainians with much-needed revenues, and the World Food Program with supplies it badly needs.”

A crater of an explosion is seen after Russian shelling in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 18, 2022. (AP/Andriy Andriyenko)

The European Commission has proposed helping Ukraine export its wheat and other grains by rail, road and river to get around the Russian blockade of Black Sea ports.

Von der Leyen says that fragile countries and vulnerable populations suffer the most, with bread prices in Lebanon having increased by 70% and food shipments from Odesa prevented from reaching Somalia.

Plus, she says “Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail — holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support. This is using hunger and grain to wield power.”

Von der Leyen adds that the EU is stepping up its production to ease pressure on the global food market while supporting Africa to become less dependent on imports.

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