Clashes between the United States and Russia over the cause of high food prices

The US ambassador to the United Nations accuses Russia of making the precarious food situation in Yemen and elsewhere worse by invading Ukraine.

Linda Thomas Greenfield, at a meeting of the UN Security Council on war-torn Yemen, said the World Food Program has identified the poorest country in the Arab world as one of the countries most affected by high wheat prices and a lack of imports from Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky responded: “The main factor of instability and the source of the problem today is not the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, but the sanctions measures imposed on our country that seek to cut off any supplies from Russia and the supply chain, regardless of those supplies which those countries in the West need, in other words energy.”

“If you really want to help the world avoid a food crisis, you have to lift the sanctions that you yourself have imposed, the sanctions that you actually choose, and the poor countries will immediately feel the difference,” he said. “And if you are not ready to do so, do not engage in demagogy, and do not mislead everyone.”

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The sharp exchange occurred a day after a United Nations task force warned that the war threatens to devastate the economies of many developing countries that now face rising food and energy costs and increasingly difficult financial conditions.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched his report saying: “Up to 1.7 billion people – a third of whom live in poverty – are now severely exposed to disruptions in food, energy and financing systems that lead to increases in poverty and hunger.”

He said 36 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, including some of the world’s poorest, and wheat and corn prices have risen 30% since the beginning of the year.

Rebecca Greenspan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Agency for the Promotion of Trade and Development who coordinated the task force, said 1.7 billion people living in 107 countries are “highly vulnerable” to at least one dimension of the crisis – rising food prices, increasing energy prices and tightening financial conditions.

The task force said 69 countries, with a population of 1.2 billion, are facing a “perfect storm” and are severely or significantly affected by all three crises. It includes 25 countries in Africa, 25 in Asia and the Pacific, and 19 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The United Nations announced Thursday that it will release $100 million from its emergency fund to seven hunger hot spots in Yemen and six African countries: Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria.

“Hundreds of thousands of children sleep hungry every night while their parents worry about how to feed them,” Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, said in a statement. “War halfway around the world is making their prospects worse. This customization will save lives.”

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UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked about Polyansky’s comments and whether Guterres was concerned that the sanctions would drive up food prices.

Dujarric replied, “I think it would be safe to say that there would be no sanctions if there was no conflict.”

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