Russia ‘deliberately uses starvation as a weapon’, says German agriculture minister

Cem Özdemir speaks during a press conference in Berlin on June 7. (Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images)

By blockading Ukrainian ports, Russia is “deliberately using starvation as a weapon”, German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said on Friday.

It’s “a particularly disgusting kind of warfare that Russia is engaged in,” Özdemir told CNN affiliate N-TV during a visit to Kyiv on Friday. “Alternative routes cost an insane amount of money,” he added.

Özdemir discussed other ways to export grain from Ukraine with his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Solskyi.

“It would be a suicide bomber for Ukraine to trust Putin’s word without credible and effective military guarantees that Ukrainian ports and ships are safe,” Özdemir said.

“I wouldn’t trust Putin’s word; he turned out to be a notorious liar,” Özdemir told N-TV.

A bit of context: Normally, Ukraine would export about three-quarters of the grain it produces. According to data from the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea from Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Russia is currently blocking maritime access to Ukrainian-held Black Sea ports, which means that even grain that is still under Ukrainian control cannot be exported to the many countries that depend on it.

According to the United Nations, Russia’s war in Ukraine could plunge up to 49 million people into famine or near-famine conditions due to its devastating impact on global food supplies and prices.

In addition, the German Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, participated Friday in Lviv in a conference of donors for the construction of a rehabilitation center for war disabled. Germany will support container workshops for manufacturing prosthetic limbs.

Lauterbach said about 200 German doctors are ready to help with trauma surgery and therapy in Ukraine.

“It is heartbreaking to see how this country is suffering from a war of aggression that borders on barbarism,” Lauterbach said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not visit Ukraine. After German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was denied a visit to Kyiv by Ukrainian authorities due to Germany’s reluctance to send military aid to Ukraine, Scholz had so far refused to to go to Ukraine. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Bucha and Kyiv on May 10.

CNN’s Ivana Kottasová contributed to this post.

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