Russia “deliberately using starvation as a weapon,” Germany’s agriculture minister says

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

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

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

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

“It would be kamikaze for Ukraine to rely on Putin’s word without credible, effective military guarantees that the security of Ukrainian ports and ships is assured,” Özdemir said.

“I would not trust Putin’s word in any way; he has proven to be a notorious liar,” Özdemir told N-TV. 

Some background: In normal times, Ukraine would export around three-quarters of the grain it produces. According to data from the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea, from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russia is currently blocking maritime access to the Black Sea ports held by Ukraine, meaning that even the grain that is still under Ukrainian control cannot be exported to the many countries that rely on it.

Russia’s war in Ukraine could push up to 49 million people into famine or famine-like conditions because of its devastating impact on global food supply and prices, according to the United Nations.

Separately, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach participated in a donor conference for the construction of a rehabilitation center for the war-disabled on Friday in Lviv. Germany will support container workshops for the manufacture of prosthetic limbs. 

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

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

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

CNN’s Ivana Kottasová contributed reporting to this post.

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