Russia Seeks to Blame West for Food Crisis

UK accuses Putin of 'trying to hold the world to ransom'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2022 4:52 AM CDT
Russia Seeks to Blame West for Food Crisis
An Ukrainian firefighter works near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.   (AP Photo/Max Pshybyshevsky)

(Newser) – Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack. Britain insisted there would be no sanctions relief, and a top US diplomat blasted the "sheer barbarity, sadistic cruelty, and lawlessness" of the invasion, the AP reports. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Vladimir Putin was "trying to hold the world to ransom" by demanding some sanctions be lifted before allowing Ukrainian grain shipments to resume. She said "appeasement" will "simply make Putin stronger in the longer term."

Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow "is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted," according to a Kremlin readout of the call. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn, and sunflower oil, but the war and a Russian blockade of its ports have halted much of that flow, endangering world food supplies. Many of those ports are now also heavily mined. European countries have tried to ease the crisis by moving grain out of the country by rail—but trains can carry only a small fraction of what Ukraine produces, and ships are needed for the bulk of the exports.

Russia also is a significant grain exporter, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the West "must cancel the unlawful decisions that hamper chartering ships and exporting grain." His comments appeared to be an effort to lump the blockade of Ukrainian exports with what Russia says are its difficulties in moving its own goods. Western officials have dismissed those claims. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted last week that food, fertilizer, and seeds are exempt from sanctions imposed by the US and many others—and that Washington is working to ensure countries know the flow of those goods should not be affected. (Ukraine says Russian forces are stealing and exporting grain.)

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