Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky said on Ukrainian television last week that she had heard many details from industry representatives about the Russians’ seizure of grain in the occupied territories in recent weeks.
“It’s a direct robbery,” he said, adding that the behavior could lead to a food crisis.
One of the world’s largest grain exporters, Ukraine has seen its grain industry disrupted by Russian invasions and seaport blockades that Ukraine relied on to transport food products to countries around the world. Countries in the Middle East and South Asia rely heavily on Ukrainian grain, and the UN World Food Program has warned that war could increase global hunger.
Ukrainian officials say hunger is also a growing threat at home – and accuse Russia of deliberately trying to dissuade Ukrainians from buying or selling their agricultural products.
War raises food prices, raises deficits abroad, especially for food-insecure countries
Ukraine had 30 million tons of wheat stocks as of last month. Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotsky said on Thursday that Ukraine has adequate food stocks in some parts of the country that still control the population there to feed, Reuters reported. But in Russian-occupied territories, that could be a different story, officials have warned.
Two months after its invasion, Russia controlled parts of southern Ukraine – a region that helped the country gain a reputation as Europe’s bread basket. Vysotsky said on Ukrainian television this week that the Russians had exported about 441,000 tons of grain from four occupied territories: Zaporizhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Vysotskiy said 1.4 million tons of grain had been stored in the occupied territories and was needed for the daily food needs of Ukrainians living there.
More than 90 percent of Luhansk’s farmland is concentrated in the northern part of the region, which has been occupied by Russian forces since February, Luhansk’s regional governor Serhiy Haidai told his telegram. The Russians have removed or destroyed large quantities of grain in the region that would meet the needs of residents for three years, Haidai said.
The Washington Post could not verify the claim. The UN World Food Program says it is not aware of any grain seizures or exports by Russian forces in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
According to Reuters, the Kremlin has denied the allegations.
News of Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s grain plantations has also increased. Haidai has accused Russia of attacking a grain lift Rubijn, a city in Luhansk, in April. About 19,000 tonnes of wheat and about 9,400 tonnes of sunflower products were destroyed, he said. Earlier this week, the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk shared a video of a rocket attack that he said destroyed a granary in the Sinelnikov district.
Satellite images taken on April 8 and 21 show the elevator before and after the attack, Planet Labs, a public earth imaging company. In the April 21 photo, most of the facilities seem flat.
The Kremlin has denied targeting civilian infrastructure.
Germany’s agriculture minister has accused the world’s top wheat exporter, Russia, of using Ukraine’s war against Russia to gain a competitive advantage in the export market.
“We are receiving reports of Russian attacks targeting grain silos, fertilizer shops, agriculture and infrastructure,” he told RedaktionsNetzwerk, a network of German regional newspapers, on Monday, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin was apparently “aiming to destroy Ukraine.” Long-term competitors. “
Ozdemir said Russia was trying to capitalize on growing global hunger.
Speaking to Fox News’ Griff Jenkins on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused countries of signing backroom agreements with Moscow to buy grain “stolen from Ukraine.” He did not name the countries.
What are war crimes, and is Russia doing them in Ukraine?
If confirmed, alleged grain seizures and attacks targeting grain establishments could fuel war crimes charges. International law prohibits plundering of occupied territories by war and deliberately deprives civilians of food and basic necessities.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of trying to cause famine in Ukraine. Some draw parallels to Holdomore, the engineering famine of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that killed nearly 4 million people in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, mostly peasants and rural residents. Although today’s most serious allegations are rarely compared, the resonance goes deep, into a conflict that has reopened historical wounds.
Solsky, the Minister of Agriculture, described in recent weeks allegations of Russian grain theft as reminiscent of the 1930s.
Heidai, the governor of Luhansk, said the “target was Holodomor” after the grain lift bombing in Ruby.
Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova, in a Facebook post, reiterated the comparison and called the export of grain from the occupied territories a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Deprived of food, Ukrainians recall the famine under Stalin, which killed 4 million of them.
The word calls for a horrific episode of atrocities from Moscow against the Ukrainian people. During the Holocaust – which meant starvation – Stalin sought to build resistance against aggregation by barring rural Ukrainians from accessing food. Some desperate Ukrainian resort to cannibalism.
Historians have widely described famine as a deliberate Soviet policy. Rafael Lemkin, an international legal expert who coined the term “genocide”, called Holodomor the “best example of a Soviet genocide.”
Russia has blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea port, preventing Ukraine from exporting grain and other agricultural products. Zelensky said the blockade could cause Ukraine to lose millions of tons of grain, telling the Australian “60 Minutes” news program that “Russia wants to completely block our country’s economy.”
Ukraine’s wheat crop, which feeds the world, cannot leave the country
Global food prices are already skyrocketing. Countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and Pakistan, which rely heavily on Ukrainian wheat, may suffer the most due to export barriers.
Since the start of the war, Ukraine has been looking for other ways to transport wheat out of the country. Deputy Agriculture Minister Vysotsky said the country had increased grain exports through this alternative route in April and he hoped it would increase further in May.
But Ukraine cannot export almost as much wheat by train by sea, and the World Food Program warns that if ports do not work, the risk of famine around the world increases.
David L. Stern and Rick Noak contributed to this report.