Putin threatens to restrict grain exports to Europe

(CNN) — Putin threatens to restrict Ukrainian grain exports to European countries and accuses them of acting “like colonial powers.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened Wednesday to restrict Ukrainian grain exports to European countries, accusing them of acting “like colonial powers,” while using misleading figures to claim developing countries receive a fraction of exports. they expected under the UN-negotiated Black Sea Grains Initiative.

In his opening speech at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Putin cited figures that do not accurately reflect current UN data on grain shipments, and said he would discuss modifying the agreement to limit grain and other food exports to European countries.

“Only 3% of the grain that is exported from Ukraine goes to developing countries, most of it goes to Europe… in recent decades European countries have acted as colonial powers, and they continue to act like that today,” Putin said. wrongly.

“Once again, developing countries have been misled,” he said, adding that “it may be worth considering how to limit grain and other food exports through this route.”

“I will certainly consult this issue with the President of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, because it was he and I who worked out a mechanism for the export of Ukrainian grain,” he said.

In a statement to CNN, the United Nations noted that under the Black Sea Grains Initiative, approximately 30% of “grains and other food products” have reached low- and lower-middle-income countries, i.e. say, about 700,000 tons.

Among countries classified by the World Bank as low or lower-middle income, the UN says that 10% of the initiative’s exports have gone to Egypt, 5% to Iran, 4% to India, 3 % to Sudan, 2% to Yemen, 2% to Kenya, 1% to Somalia, 1% to Djibouti and less than 1% to Lebanon.

Among countries classified by the World Bank as upper-middle or high-income, the UN says that 20% of the initiative’s exports have gone to Turkey, 15% to Spain, 7% to China, 7 % to Italy, 6% to South Korea, 5% to the Netherlands, 4% to Romania, 3% to Germany, 2% to Israel, 1% to Ireland, 1% to France and less than 1% to Greece and Bulgaria. The statement says that the food sent to Turkey may have subsequently been shipped to other countries in Asia and Africa.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made these erroneous claims during a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, on September 7.

Putin’s remarks were consistent with the Kremlin’s arguments about looming global food shortages, caused in large part by the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports. In recent months, Russian diplomats have worked vigorously to deflect criticism from Moscow by suggesting that Western sanctions, not Russian actions, are to blame for the crisis.

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), some of the world’s most vulnerable countries are among those most dependent on imports from Ukraine. Lebanon, Tunisia, Somalia and Libya depend on Ukraine for at least half of their wheat imports. Eritrea obtained 47% of its wheat imports from Ukraine and the remaining 53% from Russia.

But the Russian invasion has affected Ukraine’s entire food production and supply chain, from planting to harvesting to exports, and the United Nations has warned that up to 49 million people could enter famine or famine-like conditions. famine due to the devastating impact of war on world food supplies and prices.

“It is clear that with this approach, the scale of the world’s food problems will only grow, which may lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” Putin said, adding that he would discuss the matter with Turkish President Recep Tayyip. Erdogan, who backed the deal.

The Black Sea Grains Initiative, which was negotiated by the UN and Turkey, was signed by representatives of Russia and Ukraine in July.

Its aim is to facilitate the resumption of vital exports from Ukraine to alleviate global food shortages and rising grain prices.

Before the agreement, some 20 million tons of Ukrainian wheat and corn had been trapped in the port of Odessa due to the Russian blockade.

Putin downplays Russian losses

In his speech at the opening of the plenary session, Putin stated that Russia “has not lost anything” in its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“We have not lost anything and we are not going to lose anything. Our main gain is the strengthening of our sovereignty. We did not start anything, in terms of military action, we just tried to finish it,” Putin told the audience.

The United States believes that Russia is facing a “serious” shortage of military personnel in Ukraine and is seeking new ways to bolster its troop levels, two US officials told CNN last week.

For his part, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Monday that “more than 25,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have lost their lives” since the start of the war.

In late August, Putin ordered the Russian military to increase the number of troops in Ukraine by 137,000, though it remains unclear how the Defense Ministry intends to achieve the goal.

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