Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on May 23: "We are not the source of the problem. The source of the problem that leads to world hunger are those who imposed sanctions against us, and the sanctions themselves."
He remarked that Russia "has always been a rather reliable grain exporter," citing its refusal to prevent Ukraine from exporting grain to Poland by rail – which was far slower. This, he said, is in spite of the West sending in weapons to Ukraine by rail.
According to Peskov, Ukraine had made commercial shipping impossible by placing mines in its waters to prevent the entry of Russian warships. But this made navigation dangerous for both commercial and military vessels, he continued.
"For the sea transportation method – we say, again, that we are not the source of this problem. On alternative routes from our side, again – we are not the source of problems that lead to the threat of world hunger." (Related: Germany BLOCKS Russia from exporting food, then BLAMES Russia for causing brutal hunger.)
Since the war broke out in late February 2022, Kyiv has lost some of its biggest seaports such as Kherson and Mariupol to Russian forces. It also fears that Moscow may attempt to take Odesa, located in southwestern Ukraine.
Ukraine is a major exporter of grains and vegetable oil – which include corn, barley, sunflower and rapeseed oil. Meanwhile, Russia and its ally Belarus account for more than 40 percent of potash, a fertilizer that supplies key nutrients for food crops.
Both Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of global wheat supplies. According to the United Nations (UN), 36 countries – some in the Middle East and Africa – depend on these two major wheat producers for imports.
The Kremlin press secretary's comments came amid remarks by officials from the West that denounced Russia for purportedly "weaponizing" the global food supply.
On May 19, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken accused Russia of holding food supplies hostage for Ukrainians and other people around the globe. He added that "the decision to weaponize food is Moscow's and Moscow's alone."
"The food supply for millions of Ukrainians, and millions more around the world, has quite literally been held hostage. The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not: to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people."
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev hit back at Blinken. "Things don't work like that; we are not idiots. We have all the opportunities to ensure there is food in other countries so that there are no crises. Just don't prevent us from working," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
"Everything turns out to be illogical. On the one hand, crazy sanctions are introduced – while on the other hand, there are demands to supply food," added the former Russian president.
A day after Peskov gave his remarks, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rebuked Russia for its actions against Ukraine, citing allegations of Moscow deliberately bombing grain silos in the country.
"Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail – holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support. This is using hunger and grain to wield power," she said on May 24 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was in contact with multiple parties to restore grain exports from Ukraine. He had been talking with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union with a view to alleviating the worsening global food crisis.
Watch this Russia Today report about the wider repercussions of the West's sanctions on Russia.
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