Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that no one has the right to destroy the food security of any nation and the world has an opportunity to show Russia that it does not allow blackmail.
Describing the need to be protected from “Russian madness” following Moscow’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal on Monday, Zelenskyy said the export of grain from Ukraine’s seaports should continue – with or without Russia’s participation.
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Ukraine’s exports provided food security for 400 million people, Zelenskyy said, and Russia cannot be allowed to hold such a vital supply ransom to its whims.
“If a bunch of people somewhere in the Kremlin think that they supposedly have the right to decide whether food will be on the table in different countries: Egypt or Sudan, Yemen or Bangladesh, China or India, Türkiye or Indonesia… then the world has an opportunity to show that blackmail is not allowed to anyone,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
I spoke with @UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres. The topic is obvious – this is another Russian attempt to weaponize hunger and destabilize the global food market. The terrorist state has endangered the lives of 400 million people in various countries that depend on Ukrainian…
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) July 17, 2023
“Everyone has a right to stability… Africa has the right to stability. Asia has the right to stability. Europe has every right to stability. And therefore, we must all care about security – about protection from Russian madness,” he said.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative can and should keep operating – if without Russia, then without Russia,” Zelenskyy added.
Ukraine, along with the United Nations and Turkey, which brokered the original deal with Russia, can jointly continue “the operation of the food corridor and the inspection of vessels”, the Ukrainian leader said.
“The only thing that is needed now is its careful implementation – and decisive pressure from the world on the terrorist state,” he added.
There was widespread condemnation and outcry over Russia’s decision on Monday to end its participation in the deal, which allowed the export of Ukrainian grain from the country’s Black Sea ports. The agreement had helped ensure the price stability of vital global commodities such as wheat.
The year-old agreement, which officially expired at 21:00 GMT on Monday, was “a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in New York.
Guterres said he was “deeply disappointed” that a letter he sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin last week with proposals to save the agreement went unheeded.
Today’s decision by Russia to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative will strike a blow to people in need everywhere.
But it will not stop our efforts to advance global food security & price stability.
There is too much at stake in a hungry & hurting world. pic.twitter.com/8dlmRusv16
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) July 17, 2023
“Ultimately, participation in these agreements is a choice,” Guterres said.
“But struggling people everywhere and developing countries don’t have a choice. Hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost-of-living crisis,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Russia was suspending its participation and would only return once conditions relating to Russian produce are met.
Moscow says it wants obstacles to exports of Russia’s food and fertiliser lifted in exchange for further cooperation in the Black Sea grain deal. The Kremlin, in particular, is seeking relief from Western sanctions on payments, logistics and shipping insurance.
But the United States and European countries dismissed Moscow’s complaints as without merit, saying their sanctions do not target Russian grain and fertilisers.
The US will continue to work with other countries to ensure the movement of grain out of Ukraine, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
The US is not considering using military assets to help protect grain shipments, Kirby added.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from UN headquarters in New York, said that during a meeting with the UN secretary general, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba raised the suggestion proposed by Zelenskyy that the deal continues, “operated by Ukraine, Turkiye and the UN without the participation of Russia”.
“Senior UN officials though are very doubtful about that,” Bays said.
“They say that no shipping company or insurance company would want to risk their vessel coming under Russian attack,” he said.