Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States delivered by H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council: Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine

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21 July 2023


I thank the UK presidency for the opportunity to address the Security Council. I also thank the briefers.


A permanent member of the Security Council is threatening to attack any ship -regardless of its cargo and flag- that enters parts of the Black Sea. So now we are all potential targets of the Russian aggression. It is bombing grain warehouses and infrastructure in Ukrainian ports key to global food security. And it has torpedoed the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And yet it claims to care about global food security.

The EU condemns Russia’s choice to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative. It further aggravates the global food crisis and causes price increases for foodstuff globally. Hundreds of millions of already vulnerable people, in particular in Africa, will pay the price.

We commend the efforts of the UN and Türkiye to continue engaging in a constructive dialogue, and call on Russia to reconsider its withdrawal. Any arrangements have to include Ukraine.

Since withdrawing, Russia has bombed port infrastructure in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv, causing civilian casualties including children. According to reports more than 60.000 tonnes of grain destined for export were destroyed on Wednesday. Russia has threatened to attack grain shipments passing through the Black Sea. This is completely unacceptable.

The inconvenient truth that Russia wishes to hide is that it is benefiting from higher global food prices. Publicly available data demonstrate that Russian grain exports have reached record volumes. From 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, Russia’s wheat exports reached 44.7 million tonnes, more than 10% higher than the average for previous years. Its fertilizer exports are nearing full recovery.

In contrary to claims by Russian disinformation, the Black Sea Grain Initiative benefited all food importing countries by contributing to lower global prices. The export of almost 33 million tonnes of grains and foodstuffs from Ukraine to 45 different countries, reduced prices by over 23% since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Half of the grain, including two thirds of the wheat, went to developing countries. Half of the total World Food Programme grain procurement, in support of its humanitarian operations in the most food insecure countries, comes from Ukraine. Without the Black Sea route, the WFP will have to source its assistance elsewhere at a higher cost.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative is a major deliverable of effective multilateralism and in the words of the Secretary General ‘a beacon of hope in a world that desperately needs it’. Since Russia’s withdrawal, wheat and corn prices have soared. The simple truth is that Russia has made a cynical calculation: by blocking exports from Ukraine, it will make higher profits from its own exports.

The Secretary General clearly demonstrated that Russia gained important benefits from the Memorandum of Understanding on food and fertiliser exports. The UN has worked relentlessly to unblock assets, facilitate regulatory frameworks, and engage with the private sector to find dedicated solutions across banking and insurance sectors. These efforts were conducted in close collaboration with the EU. While Russia spreads disinformation and maintains its own export restrictions on food and fertiliser to drive up prices, the EU has spared no effort to avoid that our sanctions impact the food security of third countries. We provided extensive guidance to economic operators on the implementation of sanctions, clarifying that transfer of Russian food and fertilisers to third countries by EU operators and our territory is permitted. We introduced a legislative derogation in December authorising transactions with sanctioned individuals to facilitate such trade. We worked with the UN to build a bespoke payments mechanism for the Russian Agricultural Bank through JP Morgan outside of SWIFT, to allow food and fertilizer related payments. And we are working closely with the UN and partners to address any specific bottlenecks and facilitate the access of food and fertilisers originating from Russia. Russia knows all this.

The EU and its Member States remain committed to address the needs of countries vulnerable to food insecurity. The Food Systems Summit +2 in Rome next week will call for accelerated action in this regard. In addition to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the EU’s Solidarity Lanes have allowed the export of more than 41 million tons of Ukraine’s food and agricultural goods. We are also providing 18 billion EUR to address food security needs, focusing on the most vulnerable regions, and we reiterate our call on all countries to step up their own humanitarian assistance.


We call on Russia to stop using food as a weapon and rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The EU will continue to act to fight food insecurity. Food cannot be used as a political tool. We remain open to explore solutions with the UN that would contribute to the resumption of the grain deal.

In closing, I remind the Council that the Black Sea Grain Initiative would not have been necessary, if Russia had not waged a war of aggression against its neighbour and blocked Ukrainian ports for exporting grain. And I reiterate the EU’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and its inherent right of self-defence.

I thank you.

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