Russia “must stop” its blockade of Ukrainian seaports after pulling out of a United Nations and Turkey-mediated deal to ensure grain shipments, the president of the European Council Charles Michel said Friday.
“It’s frankly scandalous that Russia, after having terminated the Black Sea grain initiative, is blocking and attacking Ukrainian ports. This must stop,” Michel told reporters in India’s capital of New Delhi, ahead of a G20 summit.
Russia pulled out of the grain agreement in July after claiming that it had failed to fulfil the goal of relieving hunger in Africa.
Tensions have built in the region since, with Russia mounting attacks on Ukrainian export hubs and Kyiv’s forces targeting Moscow’s naval ports and warships.
The Kremlin has since asked Turkey to help Russia export its grain to African countries without any involvement from Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Moscow is just weeks away from supplying free grain to six African countries.
“The Kremlin’s offer of one million tonnes of grain to Africa is absolutely cynical,” Michel said.
“Ships with grains need to have safe access to the Black Sea,” he said, noting that the UN initiative had initially delivered 32 million tonnes to the market, “especially to developing countries”.
Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and seed oil.
Last year’s grain agreement helped push down global food prices and provide Ukraine with an important source of revenue to fight the war.
Russia has stepped up attacks on Ukraine’s shipping infrastructure.
“Over 250 million people face acute food insecurity worldwide, and by deliberately attacking Ukraine’s seaports, the Kremlin is depriving them of the food they desperately need,” Michel added.
Putin is not attending — or even planning to make a video address at — the G20 in India, with relations between Moscow and many members of the bloc fraught over the war in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will take Putin’s place at the summit this weekend.
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