Russian strikes on Ukraine ports ‘further blow to global food security’, says UN political affairs chief

Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian ports along the Black Sea could have far-reaching impacts on global food security, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo said on Friday in a briefing to the Security Council.

UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo on Friday in a briefing on Russia-Ukraine war to the Security Council.UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Ms. DiCarlo strongly condemned the aerial strikes this week on the ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv, which destroyed critical infrastructure and killed or injured civilians.

The attacks followed Russia's decision on Monday to effectively end the Black Sea Initiative, the UN-brokered accord that facilitated Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs to be shipped to international markets at a time of spiralling global food prices and rising hunger.

Ms. DiCarlo said these events are but the latest developments in Russia’s "senseless war against its neighbour", which has consequences that can be felt around the world.

Safety guarantees withdrawn

“Russia’s termination of its participation in the Black Sea Initiative, coupled with its bombardment of crucial ports, will further compound the crisis,” she warned.

By ending the deal, Moscow also withdrew security guarantees for ships navigating in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.

Ms. DiCarlo said food prices have been rising around the globe since its collapse, thus adding to the agricultural, energy and financial crises already affecting the world’s most vulnerable people.

Death and destruction

“We have now witnessed a further blow to global food security, as Russia for the fourth consecutive day struck Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv with missiles and drones, destroying critical port infrastructure, facilities and grain supplies,” she said.

The air raids have resulted in civilian casualties, she added. One person reportedly was killed in Odessa on Thursday, and at least eight injured, while two people were reportedly killed and 19 injured in Mykolaiv.

“We strongly condemn these attacks and urge Russia to stop them immediately,” she said, noting that such incidents may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.

“The new wave of attacks on Ukrainian ports risks having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries,” she said.

Sea mine threat

Ms. DiCarlo also expressed concern over reports of sea mines being laid in Black Sea waters, which would endanger civilian ships. She urged restraint from any further rhetoric or action that could deteriorate the already dangerous situation.

“Any risk of conflict spilling over as a result of a military incident in the Black Sea – whether intentional or by accident – must be avoided at all costs, as this could result in potentially catastrophic consequences to us all,” she said.

UN engagement continues

Ms. DiCarlo underlined the UN’s commitment towards ensuring that food and fertilizers from both Ukraine and Russia can continue to reach global markets.

This message was echoed by UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths, who recalled that 362 million people in 69 countries rely on aid to survive. Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative was “immensely disappointing” while the port strikes were alarming, he said.  

Concern for Ukraine’s farmers

“Farmers, as we can imagine, look on this nightly assault with great anxiety as they harvest now the crops nurtured in the shadow of war,” he told the Council.

Mr. Griffiths reported that global grain prices spiked this week, citing information from the World Food Programme (WFP).  On Wednesday, wheat and corn futures rose by nearly nine per cent and eight per cent, respectively, and higher prices will be felt most by families in developing countries already at risk.

He further warned that “escalatory rhetoric” also threatens to further undermine the safe transportation of foods through the Black Sea. Without access to ports or world markets, farmers could have no choice but to stop farming.

“In addition to the global effects, this would have an immediate impact on domestic food prices and on the economic stability of Ukraine. This in turn would affect food security inside Ukraine and in the region,” he added.