US and Russia clash over cause of food price rises

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is accusing Russia of making the precarious food situation in Yemen and elsewhere even worse by invading Ukraine

ByEdith M. Lederer Associated Press
April 14, 2022, 6:39 PM

UNTED NATIONS -- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations accused Russia on Thursday of making the precarious food situation in Yemen and elsewhere even worse by invading Ukraine, calling it “just another grim example of the ripple effect Russia’s unprovoked, unjust, unconscionable war is having on the world’s most vulnerable.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a U.N. Security Council meeting on war-torn Yemen that the World Food Program identified the Arab world’s poorest nation as one of the countries most affected by wheat price increases and lack of imports from Ukraine.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky shot back saying: “The main factor for instability and the source of the problem today is not the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, but sanctions measures imposed on our country seeking to cut off any supplies from Russia and the supply chain, apart from those supplies that those countries in the West need, in other words energy.”

“If you really want to help the world avoid a food crisis you should lift the sanctions that you yourselves imposed, your sanctions of choice indeed, and poor countries will immediately feel the difference,” he said. “And if you’re not prepared to do that, then don’t get involved in demagoguery, and don’t mislead everybody.”

The sharp exchange took place a day after a U.N. task force warned that the war threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries that are now facing even higher food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched their report saying, “As many as 1.7 billion people -- one-third of whom are already living in poverty -- are now highly exposed to disruptions in food, energy and finance systems that are triggering increases in poverty and hunger.”

Thirty-six countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for more than half their wheat imports, including some of the world’s poorest countries, he said, and wheat and corn prices have risen 30% just since the start of the year.

Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the U.N. agency promoting trade and development who coordinated the task force, said the 1.7 billion people live in 107 countries that have “severe exposure” to at least one dimension of the crisis -- rising food prices, increasing energy prices and tightening financial conditions.

The task force said 69 of the countries, with a population of 1.2 billion people, face a “perfect storm” and are severely or significantly exposed to all three crises. They include 25 countries in Africa, 25 in Asia and the Pacific, and 19 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The United Nations on Thursday announced it was releasing $100 million from its emergency fund for seven hunger hotspots, Yemen and six African countries -- Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria.

“Hundreds of thousands of children are going to sleep hungry every night while their parents are worried sick about how to feed them,” U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement. “A war halfway around the world makes their prospects even worse. This allocation will save lives.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked about Polyansky’s comments and whether Guterres is concerned that sanctions are driving up food prices.

“I think it would be safe to say that there would be no sanctions if there were no conflict,” Dujarric replied.

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