Russia is stopping grain leaving Ukrainian ports, sparking warnings tens of millions risk famine.
Russia’s blockade of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain is a “real war crime”, says EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“It is inconceivable – one cannot imagine that millions of tonnes of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering hunger,” Mr Borrell said.
“We call on Russia to deblockade the [Ukrainian] ports.”
EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the crisis.
Western countries have demanded Russia stop blockading Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and allow vast stores of grain to reach world markets.
The blockade has sparked warnings that tens of millions of people are at risk of famine and sent food prices soaring.
Mr Borrell said Russia’s war against Ukraine had had a damaging impact worldwide, which could be witnessed through food and energy prices.
In a news conference after the meeting, he said Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports was “a deliberate attempt to create hunger in the world” and place additional pressure on the EU and Ukraine.
According to Mr Borrell, EU foreign ministers will be contacting their counterparts across the African continent about sanctions on Russia.
He rejected Russia’s claim that the current food crisis is a result of EU sanctions, adding that EU sanctions “don’t forbid” countries outside of the EU from taking place in food trade practices with Russia or other countries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was engaged in “complex negotiations” to release its ports from Russia’s blockade.
Mr Zelensky said the global grain crisis would last as long as Russia’s “colonial war”.
He added that countries in the African Union were hostages of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ahead of the meeting in Luxembourg, Mr Borrell said: “This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer.”
He said Russia should be held “accountable” if it keeps blocking the export of vitally needed grain from Ukraine.
Mr Borrell added: “I want to insist that it’s not European sanctions that are creating this crisis – our sanctions don’t target food, don’t target fertilisers.
“The problem comes from the Russian blockade of Ukrainian grains.”
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that “Russia must stop playing with global hunger” as it seeks leverage on the West.
“Leaving cereals blocked is dangerous for stability in the world,” she said.
The head of the Polish prime minister’s office, Michal Dworczyk, is due to speak with Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov about changes that will speed up checks for trucks on the Polish-Ukrainian border to help export more grain from Ukraine.
In other developments:
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Russia will intensify its attacks on his country in the coming days, as Kyiv awaits news on its bid to join the EU
- The UK’s Ministry of Defence has said Russia’s troops in Ukraine are becoming exhausted saying the air force had “failed” to provide adequate support
- Russia has become China’s biggest supplier of oil as the country sold discounted crude to Beijing
- Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov has said he will auction off his Nobel Peace Prize medal to raise funds to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine