By John Ikani
The United States (US) has accused Russia of ‘weaponising food’ after Moscow pulled out of a key United Nations-brokered grain deal, provoking international outrage and dealing a blow to attempts to ease a global food crisis triggered by Russia-Ukraine war.
The UN-brokered grain deal signed between Russia and Ukraine in July has seen more than 8m tonnes of grain exported from Ukraine during the war and brought down soaring global food prices.
Russia announced it was pulling out of the deal on Saturday after its army accused Kyiv of a “massive” drone attack on its Black Sea fleet, which Ukraine labelled a “false pretext.”
The suspension of July’s Black Sea Grain Initiative will cut shipments from Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, from its crucial Black Sea ports.
Moscow’s declaration came a day after the United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the grain export deal, which was scheduled to expire on 19 November.
The US president, Joe Biden, called Russia’s suspension of the grain deal “purely outrageous” while the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Moscow was “weaponising food”.
Blinken said in Washington that the suspension was regrettable and urged “all parties to keep this essential, life-saving initiative functioning”.
He said in a statement Saturday night: “Any act by Russia to disrupt these critical grain exports is essentially a statement that people and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry.
“In suspending this arrangement, Russia is again weaponising food in the war it started, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity.”