World faces famine that could see millions starve if Putin pulls the plug on the UN grain ship deal
World faces catastrophic famine that could see tens of millions starve if Vladimir Putin pulls the plug on the UN grain ship deal, top officials warn
- There are currently nine Russian warships launching attacks from the Black Sea
- 18 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs could be affected next month
Tens of millions of people face the worst famine in centuries unless Vladimir Putin signs a new deal to allow ships carrying grain safe passage to leave Ukraine, a UN official warned last night.
World Food Programme director David Beasley issued a dire warning to the Kremlin amid growing fears that Moscow will reinstate its blockade of Ukrainian ports.
There are currently nine Russian warships launching attacks from the Black Sea. But they have been allowing safe passage to grain ships following a deal thrashed out with the UN and Turkey last July.
It meant 18 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs could be shipped from Ukraine, which supplies a tenth of the world’s wheat.
But there are concerns that the deal will not be renewed when it expires next month.
Tens of millions of people face the worst famine in centuries unless Vladimir Putin signs a new deal to allow ships carrying grain safe passage to leave Ukraine, a UN official warned last night
Vessels as they wait for inspection under United Nation’s Black Sea Grain Initiative in the southern anchorage of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, in December
Urgent talks will begin this week to extend it, but it is expected to be a tense showdown after the Kremlin signalled it was unhappy with some aspects of the deal and asked for sanctions affecting its own agricultural exports to be lifted. Last night, Mr Beasley called the situation ‘critical’ and warned Moscow that shutting down Ukraine’s ports would have catastrophic consequences on global food supplies.
‘With all the crises we are facing around the world with climate change, droughts, flash floods, we can’t afford the Black Sea grain initiative to fall through at all,’ he said.
‘Africa is very fragile right now. Fifty million people are knocking on famine’s door. Food prices, fuel costs, debt inflation and three years of Covid… The people have no more coping capacity and if we don’t get in and get costs down, then 2024 could be the worst year we have seen in several hundred years.’
Mr Beasley sounded the warnings in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, where Rishi Sunak urged leaders to send the most advanced, Nato-standard weapons to Ukraine to secure the country’s future.
Mr Sunak told the conference that the allies should demonstrate to Ukraine ‘that we’ll remain by their side, willing and able to help them defend their country’.
The Prime Minister’s words come amid concerns that Russia has stepped up its attacks in eastern Ukraine alongside another push to capture the fiercely contested town of Bakhmut to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Friday.
Putin is due to deliver a keynote speech three days earlier, with Ukrainian leaders warning that he plans a major offensive. Officials in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city that sits just 25 miles from the border, say bombings and shellings have risen in recent days.
‘The activity of the enemy is somewhat increased, some forces are accumulating,’ said Brigadier General Roman Hryshchenko, a local commander.
A series of strikes yesterday killed one person in their house and left two people in their 50s seriously injured in the Kharkiv region. Residents and troops in frontline areas told The Mail on Sunday that the past few days have seen some of the heaviest attacks for months.
‘The houses are burning, the dogs are howling,’ said one elderly woman in Kupiansk, liberated from Russian occupation five months ago. ‘Yesterday and the day before there were lots of hits. This week has been the most horrible.’