Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine

Russia’s latest Black Sea Grain Initiative demands are tantamount to holding the world’s starving hostage.

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21 July 2023

I’d like to start by thanking USG DiCarlo and USG Griffiths for their briefings.

Colleagues, my Foreign Secretary said on Monday that Russia’s termination of the BSGI [Black Sea Grain Initiative] was taking food out of the mouths of the poorest people across the world.

64% of the 34 million tonnes of grain exported under the deal went to low- and middle-income countries. Unsurprisingly then, Kenya called Russia’s withdrawal a “stab in the back” of countries in the Horn of Africa already impacted by drought.

Russian missile attacks on Odessa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv destroyed over 60,000 tons of grain. That is enough to feed 270,000 people for a year or to double WFP [World Food Programme] shipments under the BSGI to both Sudan and Somalia. Russia has destroyed dock equipment, making it harder to load grain on ships.

Now, Russia has gone further, burning food at the dockside, and making threats to murder civilian sailors.

There is no possible justification for these punitive acts.

Moreover, Russia has benefitted from the Deal. Russian food exports are significantly above pre-war levels. Russian food and fertiliser exports have never been sanctioned. The UK has worked with its banking and insurance sectors to facilitate transactions. And the UN has worked tirelessly to address Russian concerns.

We know that Russia’s so-called reasons for ending the Deal are nonsense.

Ukraine has made no demands. As Foreign Minister Kuleba said in this room, Ukraine wants nothing more than to make its food available to the world. Up to 24 million tons of Ukrainian food may not now reach world markets because of Russia.

Russia’s actions have already raised prices, with immediate impact on the world’s poorest and hungriest people.

And Russia’s latest demands are tantamount to holding the world’s starving hostage.

We thank Türkiye, the UN and Ukraine for their efforts to protect the deal. We call on Russia to rejoin it and to end the war.

Food is not a weapon.

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