Foreign secretary Liz Truss has accused Russia’s Vladimir Putin of “weaponising hunger” and using food security as a “callous tool of war” by blocking millions of tonnes of grain leaving Ukrainian ports.
Highlighting the urgency of the crisis, the cabinet minister said action is needed before the new harvest next month, with commercial vessels given “safe passage, in order to prevent “devastating consequences”.
Ms Truss also said the UK is offering its own “expertise” to Ukraine on ways to bypass Russian blockades of grain leave ports in the Black Sea, but warned: “It’s going to require an international effort.”
Earlier this week, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said his country was engaged in “complex negotiations” to solve the grain crisis, accusing the Kremlin of creating “unjust level of food prices” on all continents.
Speaking at a joint press conference — alongside Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara — Ms Truss said: “Putin is weaponising hunger.
“He is using food security as a callous tool of war. He has blocked Ukrainian ports, and is stopping 20 million tonnes of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom”.
She added: “I’m here in Turkey to discuss the plan to get the grain out, supported by the United Nations.
“We’re clear that commercial vessels need to have safe passage to be able to leave Ukrainian ports, and that Ukrainian ports should be protected from Russian attacks.
“We support the UN talks, but Russia cannot be allowed to delay and prevaricate. It’s urgent that action is taken within the next month ahead of the new harvest. And we’re determined to work with our allies to deliver this.”
The foreign secretary also told the press conference if the situation is not resolved, it is “likely to lead to huge hunger across the globe”.
“This grain crisis is urgent, that it needs to be solved in the next month, otherwise we can see devastating consequences,” she added.
Her remarks come after Boris Johnson raised the issue earlier this week during a phone call with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the need to “urgently end Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports”.
A No 10 spokesperson said the crisis is hitting developing countries “particularly hard”, adding: “The prime minister welcomed Türkiye’s ongoing leadership on this issue and commitment to keep Black Sea trade routes open.”
They added: “Looking ahead to next week’s NATO summit, the prime minister reiterated the UK’s support for Sweden and Finland’s accession to the alliance and agreed with president Erdoğan that all parties would continue to work together to find a path forward.”