Putin 'weaponising' world food supplies as global hunger levels reach 'new high'

19 May 2022, 08:41

The Kremlin has been accused of deliberately destroying Ukraine's farming equipment
The Kremlin has been accused of deliberately destroying Ukraine's farming equipment. Picture: Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Vladimir Putin has been accused of "weaponising" world food supplies by stealing grain, destroying farming equipment and blocking shipping routes in the invasion of Ukraine.

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The Russian president is stealing grain and destroying agricultural equipment as part of his war on Ukraine, Western officials said.

It is also believed that the Kremlin is dismantling infrastructure needed for food production and blocking essential ports used for shipping cereals out of the country.

The "deliberate policy" has sparked a crisis around the world, with developing countries facing increased chances of starvation as a result.

An official quoted in the Telegraph said: "[Russia] has exacerbated a pre-existing bad situation and has created a major threat to global food security through a deliberate policy of weaponisation of global food supply."

Record food bills have become the "last straw" for many poor countries, they added.

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A destroyed tractor in Ukraine.
A destroyed tractor in Ukraine. Picture: Getty

It comes as a United Nations chief has also warned of a global food crisis, with hunger levels "at a new high".

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that "there is still a long way to go", with the Ukraine conflict "amplifying and accelerating" the drivers of food insecurity and global hunger, which are climate change, Covid-19 and inequality.

"There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine's food production, as well as the food and fertiliser produced by Russia and Belarus, into world markets, despite the war," he said.

The conflict has closed Ukraine's Black Sea ports, halting food exports to many developing countries, Mr Guterres said that during his recent visit to Africa's Sahel region, he met families who did not know where their next meal was coming from.

Putin is 'weaponising' food supplies.
Putin is 'weaponising' food supplies. Picture: Getty

David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Program, warned that "failure to open the ports will be a declaration of war on global food security, resulting in famine and destabilisation of nations as well as mass migration by necessity".

"This is not just about Ukraine," he said.

"This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak.

"So I ask President [Vladimir] Putin, if you have any heart at all, to please open these ports... so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine, as we've done in the past, when nations in this room have stepped up together."

The UN estimates that 1.7 billion people in over 100 countries are being impacted by the current surge in food, energy and commodity prices.