European Union foreign ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss ways to dismantle and place on the world market millions of tonnes of grain that remain stranded in Ukrainian ports due to the Russian naval blockade.
More than 20 million tonnes of grain remain stranded in Ukraine’s barns after Russia invaded its territory on February 24 and imposed a blockade on their ports.
Both Ukraine and Russia are among the largest exporters of cereals in the world. Moscow denies any responsibility for the ongoing food crisis; blames the West for sanctions on grain shortages that have led to skyrocketing food prices amid warnings from the United Nations that the poorest from imports to feed their populations, are facing the threat of mass starvation.
The EU supports the UN efforts to reach an agreement on resuming Ukrainian exports by sea, in exchange for facilitating Russian exports of food and fertilizers. Turkey, which has diplomatic relations with both Kyiv and Moscow, has said it is prepared to play a role in a “monitoring mechanism” for the implementation of the Istanbul-based agreement if an agreement is reached.
It is unclear whether the EU would be militarily involved in securing an agreement. “Whether and to what extent there will be a need to escort merchant ships in the future remains questionable and I do not think we are still there,” said a European official.
At the same time, talks are underway on the possibility of preparing a new – the 7th in a row – package of sanctions against Russia due to the war, according to the same official, who clarified that new punitive measures will not be taken immediately. There is no agreement on imposing sanctions on Russian gas exports to the EU, the source explained.
In another development, the Ukrainian parliament passed two bills yesterday imposing restrictions on Russian books and music as Kyiv seeks to sever remaining cultural ties with Moscow.
A law prohibits the publication of books by Russian authors unless they obtain Ukrainian citizenship. The ban applies only to those who had Russian citizenship after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The importation, for commercial purposes, of books printed in Russia, Belarus and the occupied Ukrainian territories will also be banned. Special permission will be required for Russian books published in other countries. Another law bans the music of Russian composers (those who had citizenship after 1991) in the media and on public transport. The percentage of works in Ukrainian language and Ukrainian music that will be shown on television and radio, respectively, is increasing.
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