UN official warns Putin that millions will die if Ukrainian ports remain blocked

“Millions of people around the world are going to die because these ports are blocked,” Beasley told CNN during a conference call Thursday.

Asked what he would say directly to Putin, the UN official replied: “If you have any heart for the rest of the world, no matter what you think of Ukraine, you must open these ports” .

Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, warned that the ports must be operational within the next 60 days or Ukraine’s agriculture-centric economy will implode.

“If you don’t solve and open this port problem, the Ukrainian economy completely collapses,” Beasley said at the SABEW conference in New York. “It becomes landlocked like Moldova. Ports are critical.”

Ukraine is among the world’s top five exporters of various key agricultural products, including corn, wheat and barley, according to the US Department of Agriculture. It is also the leading exporter of sunflower oil and flour. In 2021, agricultural products accounted for 41% of Ukraine’s total exports.
President Joe Biden spoke of the global food supply shock triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, noting that about 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos there.

“Guess what?” Biden said while visiting a farm in Illinois on Wednesday. “If these tonnes don’t make it to market, a lot of people in Africa will starve because they are the sole supplier to a number of African countries.”

Arming food and energy?

After Russia pledged on Wednesday to impose sanctions on 31 foreign energy companies, a senior German official on Thursday accused Russia of using energy as a “weapon”.

Asked if Russia similarly arms food, the UN’s Beasley said it would if ports were not reopened soon. “Two plus two is four,” he said.

Biden blames Russia's war on Ukraine for food shortages and price hikes

But unblocking the ports won’t be easy. Not only are they defended by mines and battleships, Beasley said the Ukrainian military fears reopening them will allow Russia to make a “quick move” and invade Ukraine through its ports.

While stressing that he is the “humanitarian guy”, the UN official called for “understanding” within the international community to do “what is necessary to protect” the ports against the “invasions”.

“World leaders need to pressure Russia so that we can have absolute neutrality to get supplies in and out of Odessa,” Beasley said.

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