World

Russia-Ukraine war live: ‘Russia is waging war on world’s food supply’, US tells UN, amid calls for Moscow to resume grain deal

‘Russia is waging war on world’s food supply’, US tells UN, amid calls for Moscow to resume grain deal

The US representative to the UN security council meeting has said “it seems every single week, Russia stoops to a new low.” She added that “Russia is waging war on the world’s food supply” and that the country has “upended peace and security around the world.”

She called on Russia to cease attacking food facilities and resume the grain deal. “Let’s be clear, Russia has zero legitimate reason to suspend its participation in this arrangement. They would have us believe that sanctions has blocked its exports … They were exporting more grains than ever before and at higher prices. It is using the Black Sea as blackmail.”

Key events

Moving away from the UN security council meeting, Bulgaria has decided to send about 100 armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine in the Balkan country’s first shipment of heavy equipment to Kyiv.

Its parliament – with 148 votes in favour and 52 against – approved a proposal of the new pro-European government to send the vehicles along with armaments and spare parts. The government bought various models of Soviet-made BTR carriers in the 1980s but they were never used.

The Bulgarian parliament said in its decision:

This equipment is no longer necessary for the needs of Bulgaria, and it can be of serious support to Ukraine in its battle to preserve the country’s independence and territorial integrity after the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression.

EU and NATO member Bulgaria has in stock large quantities of Soviet-style weapons coveted by Ukraine and also produces ammunition for them, AFP reports. But the country remains historically and culturally very close to Moscow and has been deeply divided over the issue of sending aid to Ukraine.

The leader of the pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party Kostadin Kostadinov called Friday’s decision “treacherous and disgraceful” and the Socialist BSP party was also strongly against. So far Bulgaria has only sent one military aid package to Kyiv, containing mostly flak jackets and helmets, but a pro-EU government took office last month.

The Ukrainian representative said Russia had attacked Ukrainian Black Sea ports with dozens of missiles and Iranian-made drones. The strikes destroyed Ukrainian terminals, reservoirs and the berths of the ports, he added. “Putin’s envoy has tried to invent some arguments,” he said, later referring to him as “an oddball” and allegeing that Russia was seeking to create a famine.

“Russia’s intentions to consider foreign vessels as military targets … violate its obligations under international law … There is no basis to believe that merchant vessels of foreign nations are supporting military efforts simply by exporting grain to other countries that need it to avert the threat of hunger.”

He said Russia’s declaration covered the entire Black Sea, without exceptions. “Russia continues to cynically claim that this initiative was a commercial endeavour, not a humanitarian one.” He accused Russia of “attempting to eliminate a market competitor [Ukraine], deliberately raise global food prices and make profit at the expense of millions around the world.”

The UK representative said the Russian withdrawal from the grain deal was described by Kenya as “a stab in the back” of countries in the Horn of Africa already affected by drought. “Russian missile attacks … destroyed over 60,000 tonnes of grain. That’s enough to feed 270,000 people for a year.”

She said Russia had destroyed dock equipment, making it harder to load grain on ships, as well as “burning food at the dockside and making threats to murder civilian sailors. There is no justification for these punitive acts.” She echoed the US representative and said Russian food exports were significantly above pre-war levels, and claimed that sanctions had never been imposed on Russian food and fertiliser exports.

“The UK has worked with its banking and insurance sectors to facilitate transactions, and the UN has worked tirelessly to address Russian concerns. We know that Russia’s so-called reasons for ending the deal are nonsense.” Up to 24m tonnes of Ukrainian food may now not reach world markets because of Russia, she added. “Russia’s latest demands are tantamount to holding the world’s starving to hostage … Food is not a weapon.”

The UN has been arguing that the Black Sea deal had benefited poorer countries by helping lower food prices more than 23% globally, according to Reuters.

“The new wave of attacks on Ukrainian ports risks having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries,” the UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council.

The UN World Food Programme also shipped 725,000 metric tons of Ukraine grain to aid operations in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Russia is negotiating exports of food to countries most in need after its exit from the deal, but has not yet signed any contracts, the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Vershinin, said in Moscow.

The Russian representative, a macroeconomist who Russia asked to deliver its briefing, Mikhail Khan, accused the western members of the security council of “hiding the truth” and “engaging in wishful thinking”. He said Russia had long drawn attention to the flaws of the grain deal and that it had become largely commercial. He claimed that 70% of the exports entered high- and upper-middle incomes.

“For the poorest, specifically Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia, they received less than 3%,” he claimed. The Guardian could not immediately corroborate these figures. “The qualitative assessment of the impact of the grain deal in terms of provisions of Ukrainian grain to global markets is essentially not very significant,” Khan said. He cited a group of big western corporations who procured Ukrainian grain and alleges they were the major beneficiaries of the deal.

“We expected exemptions from the discriminatory approach to us from countries in the west who imposed unprecedented sanctions against us, effectively attempting to organise a blockade against our producers,” he added. Poor states suffered from this, he said.

“We stand ready to consider the possibility of rejoining [the grain deal],” he said. But only if “all previously agreed principles” are implemented, including the lifting of sanctions on Russian grain and fertiliser exports, and the lifting of obstacles faced by Russian financial institutions that service the sector.

‘Russia is waging war on world’s food supply’, US tells UN, amid calls for Moscow to resume grain deal

The US representative to the UN security council meeting has said “it seems every single week, Russia stoops to a new low.” She added that “Russia is waging war on the world’s food supply” and that the country has “upended peace and security around the world.”

She called on Russia to cease attacking food facilities and resume the grain deal. “Let’s be clear, Russia has zero legitimate reason to suspend its participation in this arrangement. They would have us believe that sanctions has blocked its exports … They were exporting more grains than ever before and at higher prices. It is using the Black Sea as blackmail.”

China’s representative said Russia has “repeatedly stated” its openness to resuming the Black Sea grain initiative if “substantive progress” is made in eliminating obstacles to Russia’s export of fertilisers.

“China hopes that relevant parties will act in the interest of maintaining international food security and alleviating the food crisis in developing countries,” he said, calling on parties to “meet each other halfway”.

He also alludes to Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, without naming any names, and calls for them to stop. He says China “will continue to stand on the side of peace and dialogue”, and a political solution to the war.

We’ll now report some further quotes from the UN security council meeting, which we began covering earlier.

Switzerland’s representative has said the country is “gravely concerned” about an “apparent escalation” of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets. “International humanitarian law prohibits these attacks,” she said. “We also echo the various condemnations of the Russian strikes against the port facilities of Odesa and other Ukrainian Black Sea ports.”

The Swiss representative added that all sides should have “unhindered” access to global food and fertiliser markets. “Diplomatic solutions can be found in service of a broader goal … This trend towards escalation must imperatively stop.” She closed by saying Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

Ukrainian troops have been on exercises in Scotland learning how to disarm and defuse Russian bombs, booby traps and mines.

Royal Navy divers, bomb disposal specialists and mine warfare experts have been training their Ukrainian counterparts on finding and neutralising explosive devices in the north-west Highlands in exercises that reportedly took place over the last couple of weeks.

Lt Ali Aindow, the officer in charge of Delta Diving Unit 1, said:

It’s been great to be working with our close allies and partners again. We have been able to reinforce relationships and cohere into a single, multinational force able to find and destroy underwater or maritime threats for the task group commander.

The Ukrainian navy divers have been great, it’s been a brilliant opportunity to share experience and learn techniques from each other. The Ukrainians are really focused and their enthusiasm for the training has been amazing.

Britain’s Royal Navy divers, bomb disposal and mine warfare experts train their Ukrainian counterparts, in Loch Ewe, Scotland.
Britain’s Royal Navy divers, bomb disposal and mine warfare experts train their Ukrainian counterparts, in Loch Ewe, Scotland. Photograph: The Royal Navy/Reuters

The number of ships looking to pick up grain cargoes from the Black Sea area has fallen 35% week on week amid growing uncertainty over whether commercial traffic could be hit as Russia continues to pound food facilities in Ukraine.

Moscow’s direct attacks on Ukraine’s grain for four days running followed a vow by Kyiv to defy Russia’s naval blockade on its export ports after Moscow’s withdrawal earlier this week from a UN-brokered safe sea corridor agreement.

Russia said it would deem all ships heading for Ukrainian waters to be potentially carrying weapons from yesterday, in what Washington called a signal Moscow might attack civilian shipping. Kyiv later responded by issuing a similar warning about ships headed to Russia, Reuters reports.

“We believe the aggressive rhetoric is likely to lead to a reduction in owners willing to traffic in the region and creates further complexity with respect to insurance availability,” said Omar Nokta, an analyst for Jefferies.

The number of dry bulk vessels ranging from the smaller “handysize” to “supramax”-sized ships positioning themselves to transport grains from the Black Sea region dropped 35% this week compared with the previous week, according to an analysis from the maritime and commodities data platform Shipfix reported by Reuters.

BBC Russian Service special correspondent Ilya Barabanov has the following analysis on the detention of Igor Strelkov (translated from Russian).

For many years, Strelkov was considered untouchable, both because he is a former FSB officer and for his activities in eastern Ukraine in 2014 … It can be assumed the order not to touch the former colleague of the president of Russia in the FSB came from the very top of the Russian government, so for a long nine years the security forces turned a blind eye to the criticism Strelkov allowed himself, including against the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

He was not touched by the long 17 months of the war – although he apparently made much tougher statements about the course of the “special military operation” than those for which the politician Ilya Yashin received eight and a half years in prison, and Moscow’s deputy Alexei Gorinov seven years.

If earlier the Russian authorities imprisoned those who opposed the war, now it seems they have begun to come to those who support the war, but believe the Russian command is conducting it very badly. Obviously, the system that worked before broke down after the failed military coup by PMC Wagner, and now the Russian authorities have decided to act in a new way.”

Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian Black Sea ports risk “having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries”, the United Nations political affairs chief has told the security council.

Rosemary DiCarlo also told the 15-member council that threats about the potential targeting of civilian vessels in Black Sea waters – made by both Russia and Ukraine – are unacceptable.

“Any risk of conflict spillover as a result of a military incident in the Black Sea – whether intentional or by accident – must be avoided at all costs, as this could result in potentially catastrophic consequences to us all,” she said.

We’ll bring you more updates from the meeting as we receive them.

France calls on China to ‘abstain’ from supplying Russia with military equipment, such as helmets

French president Emmanuel Macron’s top diplomatic adviser has said China was delivering items that could be used as military equipment to Russia, although not on a big scale.

Reuters reports on events last night at the Aspen Security Forum when Emmanuel Bonne, the head of Macron’s diplomatic team at the Élysée Palace, was asked if the west had seen any evidence that China has armed Russia. He said:

Yes, there are indications that they are doing things we would prefer them not to do … As far as we know they are not delivering massively [sic] military capacities to Russia but [we need that to be] no delivery.

What we need most is Chinese abstention. We need them to understand that Ukraine is a conflict of global magnitude and that we cannot afford Ukraine to lose for reasons of principle, but also for reasons which are very operational.

Bonne was asked what things China should not do. “The delivery of weapons certainly, economic support,” he said. French officials told CNN that Bonne was referencing dual-use technologies and non-lethal assistance, such as helmets and body armour.

China has repeatedly denied sending military equipment to Russia since Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, it has a “no limits” partnership with Russia announced just before the commencement of hostilities.

The governor of the Odesa region, Oleh Kiper, has posted to Telegram to say that four people remain hospitalised as a result of Russian attacks against the Ukrainian port city between 17 and 21 July.

Russian state-owned media Tass reports that the governor of Belgorod has claimed on his Telegram channel that Ukraine fired more than 130 munitions – “including two grenades dropped from unmanned aerial vehicles” – into the Russian region in the last day. Belgorod borders Kharkiv and Sumy regions in Ukraine.

The claims have not been independently verified.

An image of Russian rockets being launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv on 16 July.
An image of Russian rockets being launched against Ukraine from Russia’s Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv on 16 July. Photograph: Vadim Belikov/AP

Iran “reserves the right for reciprocal and proportional action” after the EU imposed new sanctions over Tehran’s support for Russia’s war on Ukraine, its foreign ministry has said.

The ministry again denied Iran was sending drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. The EU said yesterday it would prohibit the export of components used in the construction and production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

It also listed six Iranian nationals under two already existing sanctions regimes for Iran’s “military support of Russia’s war against Ukraine (drones) and to the Syrian regime (air defence systems)”.

“Linking the Ukraine war with Iran-Russia bilateral cooperation is politically motivated,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, said in a tweet. “We stress ending the conflict diplomatically … Iran reserves the right for reciprocal and proportional actions against the EU sanctions and its members.”

Boris Johnson has paid tribute to Vadym Prystaiko after he was sacked as Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK.

The former UK prime minister tweeted a photo of the pair together:

Pro-war Putin critic and nationalist Girkin detained in Moscow

The Russian nationalist and former Federal Security Service officer Igor Girkin (also known by the surname Strelkov), who has been detained by Russian investigators, “overstepped all conceivable boundaries” and had long been wanted by security forces, according to Tatiana Stanovaya, the founder of the political analysis firm R Politik.

In one of his most recent posts Girkin urged Putin to hand over power to a successor. “The country will not survive another six years of this cowardly mediocrity in power,” he wrote on messaging app Telegram, where he is followed by more than 800,000 people.

Criticism of Russia’s assault on Ukraine has been outlawed, AFP reports, and all key liberal opposition figures are either behind bars or in exile.

Stanovaya tweeted:

This is a moment many within the siloviki have eagerly awaited. Strelkov had overstepped all conceivable boundaries a long time ago, sparking the desire among security forces – from the FSB to military chiefs – to apprehend him.

Strelkov’s arrest undeniably serves the interests of the Ministry of Defence. This is a direct outcome of Prigozhin’s mutiny: the army’s command now wields greater political leverage to quash its opponents in the public sphere. It’s unlikely that there will be massive repressions against ‘angry patriots,’ but the most vehement dissenters may face prosecution, serving as a cautionary tale for others.

Igor Strelkov, a prominent critic of the Ministry of Defence as well as of Putin and Shoigu, has been detained. This is a moment many within the siloviki have eagerly awaited. Strelkov had overstepped all conceivable boundaries a long time ago, sparking the desire among security…

— Tatiana Stanovaya (@Stanovaya) July 21, 2023

Girkin’s lawyer has confirmed he has been detained. “He has been detained by law enforcement,” lawyer Alexander Molokhov told AFP. He said he had not seen any documents relating to Girkin’s detention yet and was now working to secure access to his client.

A former military commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic, 52-year-old Girkin was one of the key figures in the pro-Kremlin insurgency when fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Here’s the latest from my colleague Andrew Roth, who writes that it is possible that Girkin’s arrest could point to a broader purge of Russian nationalist voices who have so far been allowed to criticise the war effort largely with impunity, while liberal and anti-war activists have been jailed in the thousands.

Putin also claimed that Kyiv’s counteroffensive, launched to push Russian troops back in the south and east of Ukraine, was failing despite military and financial support from western countries.

“In any case, there are no results yet,” , Putin said in televised remarks after a meeting of the Kremlin’s security council, reported by AFP. “Neither the colossal resources that have been pumped into the Kyiv regime nor the supplies of western weapons, tanks, artillery, armoured vehicles and missiles are helping.”

Last week, the New York Times cited American and European officials and said that in the first fortnight of Ukraine’s counteroffensive “as much as 20% of the weaponry it sent to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed”, although “the startling rate of losses dropped to about 10% in the ensuing weeks”.

Poland, one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, has provided Kyiv with arms and welcomed refugees. But, as AFP reports, it has shown no interest in sending troops to Ukraine, despite claims to the contrary by Putin today which we just reported.

Poland has reinforced its defences at the border with Russia-allied Belarus, where fighters from mercenary force Wagner moved after an aborted mutiny in Russia. Belarusian territory, which borders Ukraine as well as the EU and Nato members Poland and Lithuania, served as a launching pad for Russia’s Ukraine offensive.

Putin warned that Moscow would use “all the means at our disposal” to protect Belarus in case of an attack. “Unleashing aggression against Belarus will mean aggression against the Russian Federation,” Putin said. Russia has begun transferring tactical nuclear warheads into Belarus.




<

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button