US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday of attempting to use Ukrainian agricultural exports as “blackmail” against the West.
The top diplomat said there are roughly 20 million tons of wheat stored in silos near Odessa, and in ships that are already filled and docked at the port city. But Russia’s blockade has prevented them from departing and bringing critical foodstuffs to market amid a global crisis.
“This is all deliberate. We know that President Putin is stopping food from being shipped, and aggressively using his propaganda machine to deflect or distort responsibility, because he hopes it will get the world to give in to him and end the sanctions”, - said Blinken. “It’s blackmail”.
The tactic is tantamount to “exporting starvation and suffering well beyond Ukraine”, he charged, pointing in particular to the food crisis’ damaging effects on Africa.
“We can’t wait for President Putin to do the right thing”, - said Blinken.