G7 warns of grain crisis in Ukraine, ask China not to help Russia

WEISSENHAUS, Germany (AP) — The Group of Seven Leading Economies warned on Saturday that the war in Ukraine is causing a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and urgent action is needed to unblock the grain stocks that prevent Russia from leaving Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis”.

She said up to 50 million people, especially in Africa and the Middle East, will go hungry in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a significant portion of global supply.

In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, the G-7 promised further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.

“The Russian war of aggression has led to one of the most serious food and energy crises in recent history, which now threatens the most vulnerable around the world,” the group said.

“We are committed to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to maintain global food security and assist our most vulnerable partners in this regard,” it added.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said her country, another major agricultural exporter, is ready to send ships to European ports so Ukrainian grain can be delivered to the needy.

“We need to make sure that these grains are sent out into the world,” she told reporters. “If not, millions of people will face starvation.”

Russia rejected claims it was responsible for exacerbating global hunger and driving up food prices.

“Prices are rising because of sanctions imposed by the West under US pressure,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. “If you don’t understand this, it’s a sign of stupidity or deliberate deception on the part of the public.”

The G-7 countries also called on China not to help Russia, including by undermining international sanctions or justifying Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Beijing should support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, not “assist Russia in its war of aggression,” they said.

The G-7 urged China “to refrain from manipulating information, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine”.

The group, made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, also reiterated its position that the areas seized by Russian forces should be returned to Ukraine.

“We will never recognize the borders that Russia has tried to change through military aggression,” they said.

The meeting in Weissenhaus, northeast of Hamburg, was heralded as an opportunity for officials to discuss the wider implications of the war for geopolitics, energy and food security and the ongoing international efforts to address climate change and the pandemic.

In a series of closing statements, the G-7 countries also discussed a wide range of global issues, from the situation in Afghanistan to tensions in the Middle East.

On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to friendly countries to increase military support to Kiev and increase pressure on Russia, including by seizing its assets abroad to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Kuleba said his country remains willing to talk to Russia about unblocking grain stocks trapped in Ukraine’s silos and also on reaching a political agreement to end the war itself, but so far received “no positive feedback” from Moscow.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published Saturday that he had noticed no change in Putin’s stance of late.

Scholz, who spoke at length with the Russian leader by phone on Friday, told the German news portal t-online that Putin had failed to achieve the military goals he set at the start of the war, losing more Russian soldiers than the Soviet Union during its decade-long campaign in Afghanistan.

“Putin should slowly come to understand that the only way out of this situation is an agreement with Ukraine,” Scholz said.

One idea discussed at the G-7 meeting was whether state property frozen abroad could be used to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

“Russia bears responsibility for the enormous damage caused by this war,” Baerbock said. “And therefore it is a matter of justice that Russia should pay for this damage.”

But she added that unlike in Canada – where legislation allows for re-use of seized money – the legal basis for this is uncertain in Germany.

“But that’s exactly what such meetings are for, to have an exchange on how to resolve these legal questions,” Baerbock said.

Many of the foreign ministers traveled directly to an informal meeting of NATO diplomats in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday.

That meeting will consider measures by Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance amid concerns about the threat from Russia, and about ways NATO can support Ukraine without getting involved in the conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was unable to attend the G-7 meeting after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, was expected to attend the NATO meeting.

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Leave a Comment