Russia must be judged on the blockade of grain from Ukraine, says EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. He speaks of a “true war crime” as hunger threatens poor parts of the world. “So I can’t imagine this going on for much longer.”
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia has stopped allowing Ukrainian ships to enter the Black Sea. As a result, the export of grain from one of the most important granaries in the world, vital to vulnerable countries in the Middle East and Africa, has virtually come to a standstill. The blockade prompted Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation to use the word war crime on Sunday.
The United Nations is mediating to obtain free passage for grain ships from Ukrainian ports with the help of Turkey, but that is not going to work. That is why it is also suggested to get the food out of Ukraine by land or even by air. Nevertheless, a ‘corridor’ by sea is still “the most obvious”, says Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra before the start of a meeting with his EU colleagues and Borrell. Only bulk carriers can take a bite out of the grain stocks in the overflowing Ukrainian silos.
“Everything is negotiable for the Netherlands as long as we are not blackmailed by the Russians,” says Hoekstra. The EU previously rejected a Russian proposal to export Ukrainian grain through its northern neighbour Belarus, an ally of Moscow. In return, Minsk would demand that the EU withdraw previously imposed sanctions.