Russian soldiers have been accused of forcing Ukrainian farmers to sell their crops to Crimean buyers at a 90 per cent discount.
The claim, by a Ukrainian think tank, adds to reports that the invaders are destroying or stealing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of grain or preventing it being transported to areas still controlled by Kyiv; in effect using hunger as a weapon of war.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, said that Russia’s blockade of ports in Ukraine was a war crime. European foreign ministers are trying to find alternative export routes via Hungary, Romania and Poland.
The Centre for Defence Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank, referenced a report from the country’s ministry of defence that found that Russian soldiers had forced farmers to “give 70 per cent of the harvest to buyers from Crimea at a price of about 10 per cent retail”.
A Ukrainian intelligence source accused the Kremlin of “returning to the tactics of the Holodomor”, a reference to the Great Famine of the early 1930s, when Joseph Stalin seized farms and exported much of the country’s produce, leading to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. Mattia Nelles, a political analyst, said: “Once again hunger is used as a weapon. We see the same playbook of repression that we know so well from the Soviet Union.”
A Ukrainian defence intelligence source said that President Putin’s port blockade was “deepening the global food crisis. He is blackmailing wealthy countries that are helping Ukraine overcome Russian aggression by starving the world’s poorest regions.”
Figures supplied by the Centre for Food and Land Use Research at the Kyiv School of Economics suggest that the total damage to Ukraine’s agriculture caused by the war amounted to $4.3 billion.