Article of Ambassador of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Anatolii Petrenko "Russia’s war against Ukraine and global food security" for the English-language daily Saudi newspaper "Arab News" on July 21, 2023.
A sovereign and independent Ukraine has always been a reliable partner in the field of food security. Ukraine is one of the world’s top five agricultural exporters. My country is blessed to possess a qualified agricultural industry, a favorable climate, fertile soil and hardworking people. Having such invaluable assets, we feel great responsibility lying on our shoulders.
Tragically, all of the above has been disrupted by the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. In addition to the suffering of the Ukrainian people and the significant impact on our economy, this war has launched a wave of hunger that is breaking over every corner of the world. But even under the shadow of these conditions, Ukraine showcases solidarity with those countries currently experiencing precarious situations.
Facing these difficult considerations, Ukraine, together with its partners, launched the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the Grain from Ukraine humanitarian initiative, which contributed to global food security, price predictability and guarantees of social stability to 45 countries, primarily in Africa and Asia.
Under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ukraine exported more than 33 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs. More than half of the global supply distributed by the UN World Food Programme is Ukrainian grain. At the same time, grain from Ukraine effectively delivered 170,000 tons of wheat to Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen and Kenya free of charge, mitigating those countries’ acute food supply needs.
These volumes could have been much higher if Russia did not constantly obstruct the corridor’s operation by blocking Ukrainian sea ports and delaying the inspections of inbound and outbound vessels, thus undermining the effectiveness of these two initiatives.
Further, Russia continues to demonstrate its irresponsibility and negligence to everything that does not relate to its politics. The aggressor state exploits the woes of vulnerable countries, using them as leverage to advance its political and economic interests. By resorting to grain blackmail, Russia seeks the lifting of sanctions that have nothing to do with food exports.
Through the termination of its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia endangers stability and the socioeconomic situations of countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, while literally jeopardizing the lives of millions of people. The Russian political leadership wants to be the one that decides what people will have on their tables. That is totally unacceptable.
After exiting the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia started intensively shelling the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, striving to destroy the port and the grain infrastructure (reservoirs, storage facilities, terminals, etc.) that helped secure the operation of the grain corridor, thus showing its true attitude toward global food security. While terrorizing peaceful Ukrainian civilians, Russia also threatens innocent people residing in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia with hunger.
We must put an end to blackmail and Russia’s reckless efforts to weaponize food. Its neglectful behavior toward people in need should not be tolerated. Every time we allow Russia to use the situation for its benefit, we set a dangerous precedent that has far-reaching negative consequences on a global scale.
Food security is one of the essential pillars of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace formula, which aims to restore peace and security in Ukraine and all over the globe. That is another reason for the world’s leading actors, including Saudi Arabia, to participate in its implementation.
Ukraine urges the international community, especially those that are immediately concerned, to denounce and condemn Russia’s destructive actions in the strongest possible terms. This is a case where our joint pressure and unshakable resolve could possibly turn the tide. Ukraine is ready to continue being a determined food security guarantor for many countries around the world. Our sole request remains unchanged: Provide Ukraine with all the security guarantees needed and the positive effects will not keep you waiting.