The Russian ambassador walked out of a UN Security Council meeting after being blamed for a looming a global food crisis.
The EU accused Moscow of of using food supplies as ‘a stealth missile against developing countries’ amid the war in Ukraine.
European Council President Charles Michel was directly addressing Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia – who then swiftly departed in dramatic fashion.
Mr Michel said he had seen millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships in Odessa a few weeks ago.
That was ‘because of Russian warships in the Black Sea,’ he argued – before also blaming Russian attacks on transport infrastructure and grain storage facilities, as well as its tanks, bombs and mines preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.
‘This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty, and destabilising entire regions,’ Mr Michel said.
‘Russia is solely responsible for this looming food crisis. Russia alone.’
He also accused Russian forces of stealing grain from areas it has occupied ‘while shifting the blame (on) others’ – branding it ‘cowardly’ and ‘propaganda, pure and simple’.
Mr Nebenzia walked out during the briefing and gave Russia’s seat to another diplomat.
Later, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky posted on Telegram’s Russian channel that Mr Michel’s comments were ‘so rude’ that his boss had left the Security Council chamber as a result.
The meeting was expected to focus on sexual violence during the war but the wider consequences of the Russian invasion were also raised.
Mr Michel backed a plan by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to get Russian agreement to allow grain exports to leave Ukraine – and ensure Russian food and fertiliser have unrestricted access to global markets.
The two countries produce almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia and its ally Belarus are the world’s number two and three producers of a key ingredient in fertiliser, called potash.
Mr Guterres warned last month that global hunger levels ‘are at a new high’, with the number of people facing severe food insecurity doubling in just two years from 135 million before the Covid crisis to 276 million today.
He said more than 500,000 people are living in famine conditions – an increase of more than 500% since 2016.
Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Security Council on Monday his country remains committed to finding solutions to prevent the global food crisis and is ready to create ‘the necessary conditions’ to resume exports from the key southern port of Odesa.
‘The question is how to make sure that Russia does not abuse the trade route to attack the city itself,’ he said.
Referencing Russian missiles hitting a plant in Kyiv on Sunday, where freight cars that carry grain to Ukrainian ports were being repaired, he added: ‘It means all Putin’s fairy tales about his readiness to facilitate Ukrainian wheat export that he so eloquently tells his rare interlocutors remain too far removed from reality’.
Russia insists that the war in Ukraine is justified and that it is open to allowing Ukraine to export wheat.
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