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Blinken: Russia 'weaponizing food'; US to help Ukraine with exports after grain deal collapse

by Elsa Court July 17, 2023 11:25 PM 2 min read
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks to reporters on July 17, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington is looking for ways to help Ukraine export grain and other food products following Russia's announcement on July 17 that it is pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Blinken said that Russia is using food "as a weapon in its war against Ukraine."

The grain deal, brokered by Turkey and the U.N. in July 2022, has been essential in mitigating a global surge in food prices partially caused by Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine by allowing Ukraine to export its agricultural products via the Black Sea despite the ongoing invasion.

In a news conference on July 17, Blinken told reporters that the initiative has so far had a hugely positive impact but also that the deal's very existence "should never have been necessary in the first place," referring to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia.

"For years (Ukraine) has been the breadbasket of the world," Blinken said, adding that in roughly a year that the initiative has been in effect, Ukraine has exported the equivalent of 18 billion loaves of bread.

By refusing to extend the deal, Blinken stated that Russia is "weaponizing food" by denying food supplies to those who need it and making food prices worldwide rise. "I hope that every country is watching this very closely."

Echoing Blinken's concerns, U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote on Twitter that "Putin is using food as a weapon."

"The U.K. strongly condemns Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This decision hurts the world’s poorest."

Blinken added that while Russia is attempting to block grain exports by sea, the U.S., together with Ukraine and other countries, will look at alternative routes for exports by road and rail.

However, his assessment was that "in terms of volumes necessary, it's hard to replace what is now lost" as a result of Russia's decision not to extend the deal.

Ukraine war latest: Grain deal collapses after Russia pulls from agreement
Key Developments on July 17: * Grain deal collapses after Russia pulls from agreement * Crimean Bridge damaged after reported explosions * Military: Russian forces on the offensive in Lyman-Kupiansk direction * Foreign Ministry marks 9-year anniversary of Russian downing of MH17 * More Wagner…
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