Ukraine update: US to buy $68 mil worth of grain from Ukraine; Crimean attacks highlight Ukraine offensive

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


The U.S. has pledged another $68 million to the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) to purchase stored grain in Ukraine that will be distributed to countries struggling with hunger. Russia’s war on Ukraine has blocked ports for nearly six months, stalling exports of millions of tons of agricultural products from Ukraine and exacerbating a global food shortage.

“This relief is critical,” UN Administrator Samantha Powell said in a press release, adding that the war in Ukraine has created “the most severe food crisis the world has seen in decades.”

Powell added that while the U.S. investment will free up 150,000 tons of agricultural products stuck in Ukraine, “much more is needed” to help feed people in developing nations on the brink of starvation, particularly the Horn of Africa currently grappling with a severe drought. 

The United States has provided around $7.6 billion so far to aid the UN’s response to the global food shortage since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24. 

The U.N. played a key role in brokering a deal between Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey to resume grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports last month.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley said opening Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that have been dominated by Russia is critical in combating global hunger.

“It will take more than grain ships out of Ukraine to stop world hunger, but with Ukrainian grain back on global markets we have a chance to stop this global food crisis from spiraling even further,” Beasley said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

As of Tuesday, 21 ships loaded with grain and other agricultural products have left Ukraine’s ports following the June 22 pact. Despite the resumption of shipments, Ukraine’s grain exports are still down 46% compared to pre-war figures, according to the country’s agricultural ministry.

Spate of explosions in Crimea threaten Russian security

Meanwhile, a recent string of explosions in Crimea have underscored Russia’s increasing vulnerability in the Ukrainian peninsula it annexed in 2014.  Moscow acknowledged that Tuesday’s explosions, which tore through an ammunition depot near Dzhankoi, represented an “act of sabotage” by Ukraine. Detonations at the depot continued into Wednesday, according to Reuters. 

“Russian commanders will highly likely be increasingly concerned with the apparent deterioration in security across Crimea, which functions as [a] rear base area for the occupation,” the British intelligence agency said in a tweet.

Back in Washington, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, early Wednesday to discuss Ukraine’s current and future security assistance needs, according to a Department of Defense readout of the call. Reznikov also provided Austin with a battleground update, which likely included a discussion on the recent developments in Crimea. The two also made plans for the next meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contract Group and confirmed their intention to maintain regular communications. 

The U.S. has spent more than $54 billion in defense, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since the war began nearly six months ago, the New York Times reported.