Letters: The West is running out of time to save Ukraine’s grain and prevent catastrophe

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Packets of flour in a flour mill and bread factory in Constanta, Romania. Global supplies are under pressure as the war in Ukraine drags on - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg
Packets of flour in a flour mill and bread factory in Constanta, Romania. Global supplies are under pressure as the war in Ukraine drags on - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

SIR – The destruction, loss of life and war crimes we have witnessed in Ukraine over the past few months are appalling. But these will all pale into relative insignificance if the grain currently stored in that country is not moved to where it is needed, and this year’s harvest rots in the fields (“How Putin’s war could reap a bitter global harvest”, report, May 20).

Maintaining the status quo simply allows Vladimir Putin to inflict devastation akin to that of a nuclear attack without crossing the Rubicon.

We have, at most, a few weeks to act. The time for talking and hand-wringing has long since passed. Every person on the planet with an ounce of humanity can see the imperative of shipping that grain.

We need to do whatever it takes, now. The logistical challenge is monumental. Only the military (in reality, Nato) has the command and control to achieve such an operation, and, if necessary, defend it.

If good people do nothing evil will prevail, with consequences that we have not witnessed since 1945. Twenty-first century history will turn on the decisions our leaders make in the next few days.

Patrick Loxdale
Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire

SIR – The US and Royal Navies have vessels in the Gulf to ensure the supply of oil. We should put vessels in the Black Sea to ensure the supply of grain from Ukraine.

Robert Ashton

SIR – In view of Vladimir Putin’s threat to choke off a significant portion of the world’s grain supply, is there not a humanitarian case for Ukraine urgently to invite the United Nations to put a peace-keeping force into Odesa?

Air Cdre Michael Allisstone (retd)
Former Chief Staff Officer (Logistics), Ministry of Defence
Chichester, West Sussex

SIR – Could the UN not organise something similar to the Berlin Airlift to get the grain out of Ukraine to safety and then to hungry nations, not least those of Africa?

Is it too much to ask this colossally costly organisation to pull out every stop to run lorries from Poland? Are the Russians going to be allowed to destroy food destined for the rest of the world, including nations who are not involved in this revolting war?

Richard Newman
Wetherby, West Yorkshire

Virtual medicine

SIR – As medical students at Glasgow University in the 1970s, we were advised to “put your finger in it before you put your foot in it”. This advice served me well during my career.

Can the work-from-home consultants (Letters, May 20) please show how this can be done virtually?

Dr Richard A E Grove
Isle of Whithorn, Wigtownshire

SIR – At the start of the Covid pandemic I stopped going into my department for two sessions a week and had a home workstation. After a year I stopped working completely.

I missed being able to share information easily with colleagues and I especially missed my contact with junior radiologists in training.

Alan Grundy
Retired consultant radiologist
Surbiton, Surrey

SIR – While one cannot expect to have more leisure time and do less work for the same money (Letters, May 20), it seems like a perfectly rational desire. The romantic ideas of vocation and duty are the exception rather than the norm. If anyone disagrees, just give them £184 million Lottery jackpot (report, May 20) and see what happens.

Jonathan Ricks

SIR – I am not looking forward to the next series of Line of Duty, as it may be a rather dull affair with all the detectives working from home (“Murder cases being investigated from home, claims police chief”, report, May 20).

Steve Siddall
Holt, Wiltshire

Bank of England perk

SIR – There has rightly been criticism of the Bank of England’s weak efforts to control inflation (Letters, May 18).

Ironically, the Bank’s staff are personally largely immune to the effects of inflation, being members of one of the most generous index-linked pension schemes in the country. Bank of England pensions are linked to growth in the retail prices index, so no matter how high inflation soars employees’ financial security is completely protected.

Given that the Bank’s remit is to keep inflation down to 2 per cent, perhaps the interests of their directors and staff should be aligned with those of the rest of the country by capping their pension inflation increases at that same 2 per cent. This might bring a sense of urgency to their handling of the crisis.

Vincent Phillips
Naburn, North Yorkshire

Cut! Actors need to learn to scythe safely

Close crop: farmers using scythes to mow grass in the Arbat district in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq - Getty Images
Close crop: farmers using scythes to mow grass in the Arbat district in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq - Getty Images

SIR – The film of Far from the Madding Crowd, shown recently on BBC Two, was a great delight, but I shudder every time I see an actor trying to use a scythe.

The blade should slide along the ground, and never lifted in the air in a “chopping” motion, which is dangerous and does not produce the desired result of an even swath.

There are many other aspects of haymaking and harvesting-by-hand that my very 19th-century farm upbringing taught me, some of which date back to medieval times. I’m sure there must be authorities – or even very old men like myself – who could put film-makers right, to the greater enjoyment of all.

Brian Slater
Ellesmere, Shropshire

Elgin Marbles loan

SIR – The British Museum enjoys warm relations with Unesco, working alongside it to protect the world’s cultural heritage in Iraq and now Ukraine, safeguarding it for future generations.

This is why the museum firmly believes that the Parthenon Sculptures in London play a vital role in demonstrating the significance of ancient Athens within the context of the ancient civilisations that shaped it – Egypt and Assyria – and later cultures that were inspired by it (“Britain agrees to discuss Elgin Marbles in UN talks with Greece”, report, May 20).

No new talks have taken place. We believe that extending public access is the real issue at hand. The remaining sculptures are fragments – only 50 per cent of the originals survive. There will never be a magic moment when all of the sculptures are reunited. The surviving sculptures in Athens speak of the ancient history of that great city; in London they speak to the history of the world, and to millions of visitors from across the globe.

These are two complementary stories in which the Parthenon Sculptures play an integral role.

Dr Jonathan Williams
Deputy Director, British Museum
London WC1

Pavement parking ban

SIR – I’m the Conservative county councillor for St Margaret’s and Westgate Division in Ipswich. There are a high percentage of narrow, terraced Victorian streets in my patch.

Most households have at least one car that has to be parked half-way up the pavement on each side of the road – otherwise there wouldn’t be enough room for single-file traffic to pass. There are no passing places because the cars are tightly parked on both sides of the road (on the pavement), so cars meet head on and both drivers refuse to reverse. It’s tense.

However, try banning pavement parking and the roads would be impassable (“Pavement parking should be scrapped or net zero drive will fail”, report, May 18). Tell people they can’t park in the streets near their home and there will be riots (in Ipswich at least).

Who has the right effectively to tell hard-working, tax-paying voters that they shouldn’t own a car? If the Tories try this they can watch their voters desert them en masse. The impact of partygate will be as nothing to this.

Debbie Richards
Ipswich, Suffolk

Treatment of refugees

SIR – There is disparity between the treatment of people fleeing the war in Ukraine and the measures put in place to welcome refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries who are seeking safety in the UK.

This is why we have written to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary. The Government must ensure that all refugees are given the support they need, including secure housing, access to employment and vital support services. It must also address concerns over the Homes for Ukraine scheme – with extra funding for councils to vet hosts effectively and provide access for Ukrainian families to specialist trauma-informed services.

Finally, we remain concerned about the potential for vulnerable children to be assessed mistakenly as adults and sent to Rwanda. To achieve the Prime Minster’s vision of a “global Britain”, the UK must play its part in welcoming all those fleeing persecution and war, and needing protection.

Lynn Perry
CEO, Barnardo’s
Sir Peter Wanless
CEO, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Gwen Hines
CEO, Save the Children UK
Melanie Armstrong
CEO, Action for Children
Rose Caldwell
CEO, Plan International UK
Jo Revill
CEO, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Philip Ishola
CEO, Love146 UK

German reparations

SIR – Professor David Abulafia makes a powerful case when arguing that financial reparations may not always be the most appropriate or effective way to make amends for historical wrongs suffered by aboriginal populations in countries such as Canada (Comment, May 19).

However, from my experience as honorary academic adviseor to my fellow Holocaust survivors in several years of meetings with German ambassadors and high officials, I do not agree with his assertion that the German government “offered a willingness to face the sheer awfulness of what its leaders had done between 1933 and 1945”.

Beneath the velvet glove of PR, we experienced an iron fist of denial even that the slave labour imposed on them in Auschwitz and other camps had been illegal.

Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky

The perfect crease

SIR – In Glasgow Academy’s CCF pipe band in the 1960s, to achieve a perfect crease (Letters, May 20) we used the very thin thread of elastic that was wound round the centre of an old balata golf ball.

This was carefully run down the inside of the jacket arm, before being pressed with a very hot iron. It was never used on trousers, however – we wore the kilt.

A J M Scott
Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire

SIR – Fine trouser creases on parade, especially when leading the guard, were vital. Decades later, before a special event, I still put on my shoes before my pressed trousers to preserve their sharpness.

Malvern Harper
Ripley, Derbyshire

SIR – I, too, was a successful user of soap to sharpen creases in my CCF days (Letters, May 20).

Having been taught by an aunt to sew, I also amended my school uniform, replacing the white buttons with coloured ones – red, blue and green – and sewed a contrasting colour to the reverse of my black tie.

After school, with a quick twist of the tie, I was quite a lad about town, which earned me the nickname “Ed the Ted”.

Grenville Edwards
Albaston, Cornwall

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