Russia’s blocking of Ukrainian ports is ‘obvious blackmail’, says Ukrainian foreign minister

Storage silos and maritime cranes at the port of Odessa in Ukraine on January 22. (Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Russia is trying to “blackmail” the international community by offering to unblock Ukrainian seaports if sanctions against it are reduced, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

This is “clear blackmail”, Kuleba said. “You couldn’t find a better example of blackmail in international relations.”

He warned that if Russia does not lift its block on Ukrainian crop exports, the entire agricultural cycle will be interrupted and could trigger a “multi-year food crisis”.

A bit of context: Before the war, Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest corn exporter and fifth-largest wheat exporter, according to the US State Department. Nearly 30% of the world’s wheat trade came from Russia and Ukraine alone.

Speaking at a roundtable, Kuleba said Russia and Ukraine were far from a possibility of a negotiated peace and that Moscow had no intention of taking part in talks aimed at ending the war.

“When you conduct an operation like this, you are essentially saying no to negotiations. If Russia had preferred talks to war, it would have behaved differently,” he said.

Giving concessions to Russia hasn’t worked since 2014 and won’t work now, Kuleba said.

“This strategy was used by major world forces from 2014 to February 24, 2022. Make concessions here, make concessions here, it will help prevent war. He failed. Eight years of this strategy resulted in missile attacks on kyiv and bloodshed in the Donbass,” the foreign minister said.

Kuleba again called for new sanctions against Russia, namely stopping the purchase of Russian oil, which he said keeps Moscow in a comfortable position.

“Ukraine is suffering more than Russia with the sanctions against it. … After three months of war, my message is simple: kill Russian exports. Stop buying from Russia and allowing them to make money. ‘they invest in the war machine to kill and destroy,’ he said.


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