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World must tell Russia to stop ‘blackmail’ involving Ukrainian grain, Blinken tells UN

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. (State Department Photo by Freddie Everett)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on August 3 took aim at Russia in a speech to the UN Security Council in New York, accusing Moscow of “blackmail” over its recent withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Blinken told the 15-member council that “hunger must not be weaponized” and urged all UN countries to tell Russia they have had “enough” of Moscow’s actions.

“Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail. Enough treating the world’s most vulnerable people as leverage. Enough of this unjustified unconscionable war,” he said.

Blinken announced that nearly 90 countries had backed a U.S.-drafted communique in which they commit “to take action to end the use of food as a weapon of war and the starvation of civilians as a tactic of warfare.”

The communique does not call out any countries by name. Blinken, however, singled out Russia in his speech, saying its invasion of Ukraine had sparked an “assault” on the global food system.

The United States and the European Union have previously accused Russia of using food as a weapon of war by worsening a global food crisis when it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia last month quit the grain deal that for nearly a year had allowed the safe export of Ukrainian grain through three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Since quitting the deal, which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to help ease the food crisis, Moscow has targeted Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure on the Black Sea and Danube River.

Blinken spoke at a meeting he chaired on famine and food insecurity caused by conflict. The United States took over the rotating presidency of the Security Council on August 1.

Moscow says it would return to the deal if its demands to improve its own exports of grain and fertilizer were met. The sanctions imposed on Russia “explicitly exclude food and fertilizer,” Blinken said, but Moscow argues that restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have hindered its agricultural exports.

“At the time it abandoned the initiative, Russia was exporting more grain at higher prices than ever before,” Blinken said.

Blinken added that the United States would provide $362 million in new funding to “tackle the drivers of food insecurity and to enhance resilience” in 11 African countries and Haiti.