Blinken urges world to tell Russia: Stop using Black Sea as blackmail

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on all countries at the United Nations to demand that Russia cease using the Black Sea as blackmail after withdrawing from a deal that permitted Ukraine to safely ship its grain to global markets.

“Every member of the United Nations should tell Moscow, ‘Enough,'” Blinken asserted during a U.N. Security Council meeting on famine and food insecurity caused by conflict.

He emphasized, “Enough using the Black Sea as blackmail; enough treating the world’s most vulnerable people as leverage; enough of this unjustified unconscionable war,” addressing the 15-member body.

Blinken revealed that nearly 90 countries have supported a US-drafted communique committing “to take action to end the use of food as a weapon of war and the starvation of civilians as a tactic of warfare.”

While the United States, the European Union, and other parties have accused Russia of exacerbating a global food crisis by using food as a weapon of war during its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the US communique refrained from specifically naming any countries.

Last month, Russia withdrew from a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which had allowed safe Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain for a year to address the global food crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia are major grain exporters.

Following the withdrawal, Moscow targeted Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure along the Black Sea and Danube River, causing a spike in global grain prices. Russia stated that if its demands to enhance its own grain and fertilizer exports were met, it would consider reviving the Black Sea agreement.

“The Kremlin claims that it tore up the deal because international sanctions were restricting its agricultural exports,” Blinken stated. “In reality, sanctions explicitly exclude food and fertilizer.”

“At the time it abandoned the initiative, Russia was exporting more grain at higher prices than ever before,” he added.

Moscow argued that restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have hindered its agricultural exports.

The Security Council also adopted a formal statement on Thursday, agreed by consensus, condemning the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, a violation of international humanitarian law, and the unlawful denial of humanitarian access.