Ukraine is working with the United Nations on an operation to transport grain past Russian blockades in the Black Sea, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, said Tuesday.
Ukraine, often described as Europe’s breadbasket, is one of the leading grain exporters across the globe, but Russian blockades in the Black Sea have halted the export of grain in the key port city of Odesa. This could have far-reaching consequences beyond Ukraine, potentially exacerbating food shortages.
Kuleba tweeted on Tuesday that the U.N. and Ukraine are working on an “operation” to ensure a trade route to safely transport grain and other food out of the country. While details about the operation were slim, he wrote that the operation would be conducted alongside “navies of partners,” though he did not name which allied countries would be involved.
He slammed Russia for creating these blockades and trying to pin the blame on Ukraine for food shortages.
“Russia plays hunger games with the world by blocking Ukrainian food exports with one hand and trying to shift the blame on Ukraine with the other,” he wrote.
When reached by Newsweek Tuesday afternoon, a U.N. spokesman pointed to previous remarks from Secretary General António Guterres, adding they are not saying much more at this time.
While speaking at the Global Food Security Call to Action Ministerial on May 18, Guterres said he has been in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States, the European Union and other countries about the issue.
“The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides for a package deal to be reached,” he said. “I will not go into details because public statements could undermine the chances of success.”
Macron said he proposed bringing the issue for a resolution at the UN “to give a very clear framework” to de-mine the port city so grain shipments could resume.
“The decision does not depend on us, but it does indeed depend on an agreement from Russia—and guarantees provided by Russia—so that, faced with the de-mining, which is essential, security guarantees are provided to the Ukrainians to prevent them from being attacked,” Macron said, according to Barron’s.
Ukrainian authorities have warned that more than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in the country, and that food could rot if it is not soon shipped out—potentially leading to a worldwide food shortage and driving up food prices.
The UN warned earlier in May that millions of people were “marching towards starvation” unless Ukrainian ports along the Black Sea reopened. About 276 million people were experiencing acute hunger at the beginning of the year, but that number could rise by 47 million due to the war. Specifically, it could threaten food supply to sub-Saharan Africa.
Russian forces have also been accused of stealing at least 400,000 tons of grain, potentially worsening the crisis. The Kremlin has denied these allegations.