Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman charged Tuesday that Russia’s war in Ukraine has created a critical food shortage in Ukraine, with ripple effects of a “global food crisis” felt worldwide.
At a United Nations meeting Tuesday held on the impact of Russia’s war on global food security, Sherman said that Russia has bombed at least three civilian ships carrying goods out of the Black Sea. She said that the Russian Navy is blocking access to Ukraine’s ports, cutting off Ukraine’s ability to export grain and preventing about 94 ships with food from reaching the Mediterranean Sea.
Sherman argued that Russia’s claims that sanctions from the US and its allies are driving up food costs around the globe ignores the fact that Russia has prevented Ukraine’s grain exports from reaching the rest of the world.
“So long as Putin continues his war, so long as Russian forces continue to bombard Ukrainian cities and block aid convoys, so long as besieged civilians are unable to get to safety, this humanitarian crisis will only get worse,” Sherman said. “Vladimir Putin started this war. He created this global food crisis. And he is the one who can stop it.”
The claims from the senior State Department official leveled at Tuesday’s UN meeting come as the US has formally accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including the targeting of civilians.
Sherman said the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that as many as 13 million people worldwide “may be pushed into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Noting that both Ukraine and Russia are major agricultural producers, Sherman said about 30% of the world’s wheat, 20% of corn and 75% of sunflower oil exports come from the Black Sea region.
The World Food Program has warned that 45% of the people in Ukraine are concerned about having enough to eat, Sherman said. She pointed specifically to the attacks on the port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, saying that the population there has been left without food, water, heat and electricity, and people have “resorted to melting snow for drinking water.”
“One mother told reporters she could feed her three daughters only a spoonful of honey a day as they hid from Russian bombs. Now, city officials say people are beginning to die of starvation,” Sherman said. “Five weeks ago, Mariupol was at peace. It was, in fact, a bustling port city, a grain exporter that helped feed the world. Today, its residents are dying because of President Putin’s war of choice.”