Officials in Brussels have repeatedly blamed Moscow for spiraling energy and food costs, while simultaneously freezing joint Russian-European energy projects and rejecting Russian gas and oil deliveries. On Friday, the EU formally approved a new, sixth package of sanctions, which includes plans to gradually phase out purchases of Russian crude oil.
European politicians’ short-sightedness, not Russia, provoked the energy crisis, and Russia is ready to take necessary measures to alleviate a global food crisis, President Vladimir Putin has said.
“We see attempts to shift the blame for what is happening on the food market on Russia, but this is an attempt to pin the blame on someone else,” Putin said in an interview with Rossiya-1 on Friday. He recalled that contrary to Western politicians’ claims, problems on the global food market began during the COVID-19 pandemic, long before Russia kicked off its special military operation in Ukraine.
Putin also suggested that Ukraine’s role as a food commodity exporter is not as significant as its being made out to be by the West. “The world produces about 800 million tonnes of grain and wheat per year. Now we are told that Ukraine is ready to export 20 million tonnes. 20 million tonnes compared to the 800 million tonnes the world makes is 2.5 percent of that figure. But if we proceed from the fact that wheat makes up only 20 percent of the total food supply (and this is the reality, these are not our figures but those of the UN) this means that these 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian wheat make up 0.5 percent,” he said. He added that this “20 million tonnes” figure is the potential export figure, with Kiev’s real capabilities today below that.
Putin characterized Western countries’ decision to sanction Russian fertilizer producers as a “short-sighted, stupid and erroneous policy” which is “leading to a dead end.” He warned that due to sanctions, the situation on the world fertilizer market will worsen, with food prices subsequently expected to go up even further.
The same goes for energy, the Russian president said, noting that Western countries overestimated the possibilities of alternative sources of energy, and that Brussels’ “short-sighted” policies are behind the current price crunch.
Putin dismissed claims that Russia was supposedly trying to block the export of Ukrainian grain, calling the allegations a “bluff” and pointing out that the cheapest way to export Ukrainian grain would actually be to send them through Belarus, but that this would require the lifting of sanctions against Minsk. Kiev also still has access to ship grane up the Danube River, and through Poland, he said.
Putin called on Kiev to clear areas under its control of sea mines and deliberately sunk ships to ensure the safe export of food supplies, and indicated that Russia was finishing up work to clear areas under its control, and will be prepared to ensure the peaceful transport of goods and the entry of ships into Black and Azov Sea ports. He added that there are still dozens of foreign commercial vessels still trapped in Ukraine’s ports, and that their crews are effectively being held hostage.
The Russian president also announced that Russia is ready to increase its own wheat exports to 50 million tonnes. “In the current agricultural year of 2021-2022, we will export 37 million tonnes, and in 2022-2023 I think we will raise this to 50 million tonnes,” Putin said.