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Germany condemns 'repugnant' Russian grain theft in Ukraine

Published May 13,2022

Germany's agriculture minister on Friday accused Russia of grain theft in eastern Ukraine, as G7 countries met to discuss the impact of the war on the global food supply.

"This is an especially repugnant form of war that Russia is leading," Cem Ozdemir said at the start of a meeting in Stuttgart with colleagues from G7 countries, Ukraine, the European Union, the OECD and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation.

Russia was "stealing, robbing, taking for itself grain from eastern Ukraine," Ozdemir said.

Russia was using "hunger as a weapon of war" the hosting minister said, drawing a parallel with the Holodomor, the famines in Ukraine under Stalin's rule in the 1930s.

Before the invasion, Ukraine was seen as the world's bread basket, exporting 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports -- 12 percent of the planet's wheat, 15 percent of its corn and half of its sunflower oil.

But with the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and others cut off from the world by Russian warships, the supply can only travel on congested land routes that are much less efficient.

"People across the world are paying the price for this war," Ukrainian agriculture minister Mykola Solsky said with reference to disruption to food supplies caused by the invasion.

"Ukraine is in a very difficult situation with regard to grain exports," Solsky said.

The Russian occupation in the fertile eastern regions of the country would also have an impact on this year's crop.

"We cannot get away from the fact that the harvest will be smaller than last year," Solsky said.

Discussions had already begun on how to transport more grain out of Ukraine "over land, by train and along the Danube", which flows from Germany to Ukraine, to "rescue" the produce stuck in the country, Ozdemir said.

The question of food security was already on the agenda for the G7 meeting of foreign ministers, which began Thursday in the northern German resort of Wangels.

"We as the strongest industrialised democracies have a special responsibility" to help poorer nations weather the food and energy squeezes caused by the war, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

The other members of the group are Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States.