Zelensky: Blockades Still Hindering Grain Exports From Black Sea

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the removal of obstructions that he said continue to disrupt food exports from his country's Black Sea ports.

Speaking on January 21 to an international conference of agriculture ministers in Berlin, Zelenskiy also urged participants to support the Black Sea Grain Initiative -- the program that for nearly six months has enabled exports of grain and other foodstuffs through Ukraine's major ports on the sea.

"The world needs more determination and more cooperation to stop the aggressions that are disrupting the food market,” Zelenskiy told the conference in a video message. “Stop any nation that blockades the sea and destroys food supply chains. Prosecute any tyrant who tries to make hunger a tool of his policy."

Before the Black Sea Grain Initiative was agreed in late July, Ukraine -- a critical supplier of grains, oilseeds, and vegetable oils to global markets -- and other countries accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon by blockading Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, and the United Nations reached the agreement, which also paved the way for Russian food and fertilizer to reach global markets. The shipments are monitored by a joint coordination center in Istanbul that includes representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey.

Zelenskiy said there currently are more than 100 ships lined up near the Bosphorus waiting to be inspected. He claimed that ships are being detained for weeks while Russian representatives block the inspections.

This could affect food prices in Europe and mean a growing risk of social instability for Asia, he warned. For countries in Africa such as Ethiopia or Sudan it could mean empty dining tables for thousands of families, Zelenskiy added.

Russia on January 21 denied blockading Ukrainian grain ships and blamed Kyiv for creating an "artificial traffic jam."

It said there currently are 64 ships at anchor off Ukrainian ports and in inspection zones.

“The order of their inspection is determined by the Ukrainian side, Russian representatives have no influence on this at all," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement quoted by the dpa news agency.

By RFE/RL

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