UNITED NATIONS, United States — The United States and Russia blamed each other Thursday for the worsening food situation around the world as the war in Ukraine unfolds.
Washington called on Russia to allow exports of Ukrainian grain that is held up in Black Sea ports. Ukraine is one of the world's top producers of wheat.
"Stop blocking the ports in the Black Sea. Allow for the free flow of ships and trains and trucks carrying food out of Ukraine," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a UN Security Council meeting organized by the United States.
"Stop threatening to withhold food and fertilizer exports from countries that criticize your war of aggression," he said.
"The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage by the Russian military," Blinken added.
Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, countered by saying his country is being blamed for all of the world's woes.
He said the world has long suffered from a food crisis caused by an inflationary spiral stemming from rising costs of insurance, logistical snarls, and speculation on Western markets.
He argued that Ukraine's ports are blocked by Ukraine itself, which, he said, has placed mines along the Black Sea coast.
And Ukraine does not want to cooperate with shipping companies to free up dozens of foreign freighters that are blocked in port, Nebenzia said.
He also denounced Western sanctions against Russia, saying their consequences are worsening food insecurity around the world.
Blinken countered that "sanctions aren't preventing Russia from exporting food and fertilizer."
"Sanctions imposed by the United States and many other countries deliberately include carve outs for food, for fertilizer and seeds from Russia," he said.
"The decision to weaponize food is Moscow's and Moscow's alone," said Blinken.
Serhii Dvornyk, a member of Ukraine's mission to the UN, echoed that assertion.
"We demand that Russia stop illicit grain stealing, unblock Ukrainian seaports, restore freedom of navigation, and allow trade ships to pass," Dvornyk said. "About 400 million people throughout the world depends on grain supplies from Ukraine."
The country's grain exports fell from 5 million tons per month before Russia's February invasion to 200,000 in March and about 1.1 million in April, he added.
A day after the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Russia to allow exports of Ukrainian grain, some 80 countries participated in the council meeting on Thursday, overwhelmingly expressing concerns about the risk of food shortages.
© Agence France-Presse