Russia has stepped up its attacks on critical infrastructure after battlefield setbacks. A prominent Russian nationalist said on Saturday that the Russian army does not have enough doctors, a rare public acknowledgment of problems within the army.
In the capital, Kiev, President Volodymyr Zelensky oversaw a busy diplomatic day, welcoming several European Union leaders to meetings and hosting an “International Summit on Food Security” to discuss food security and agricultural exports from the country. A deal between the United Nations and Turkey has ensured the safe export of Ukrainian grain to the Black Sea amid wartime disruptions that have affected traffic.
“The total amount we have raised for ‘Grain from Ukraine’ is already about 150 million dollars [$220 million]. The work continues,” Zelensky said in his nightly TV address. “We are preparing up to 60 ships. All of us together are not only sending Ukrainian agricultural products to the countries most affected by the food crisis. We reaffirm that hunger must never again be used as a weapon.”
The Prime Ministers of Belgium, Poland and Lithuania and the President of Hungary attended, many others joined by video. Zelensky said more than 20 countries supported the summit.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine — despite its own financial problems — allocated 900 million hryvna ($24 million) to buy corn for countries like Yemen, Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria.
Our food security summit was supported by more than 20 countries. The total amount we have collected for “Grain from Ukraine” is already about 150 million dollars. Work continues. We are preparing up to 60 ships. All of us together are not only sending Ukrainian agricultural products to the countries most affected by the food crisis. We reaffirm that hunger must never again be used as a weapon.
The reminder of food supplies came at the right time: Ukrainians celebrated the 90th anniversary of the onset of the “Holodomor,” or Great Famine, that killed more than 3 million people in two years when the Soviet government under dictator Josef Stalin and grain supplies and deported many Ukrainians.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz marked the commemoration by drawing parallels to the impact of the war in Ukraine on global markets. Exports from Ukraine have resumed under a UN-brokered deal, but are still well below pre-war levels, driving up world prices.
“Today we are united in our declaration that hunger must never again be used as a weapon,” Scholz said in a video message. “That is why we cannot tolerate what we are experiencing: the worst global food crisis in years with horrific consequences for millions of people – from Afghanistan to Madagascar, from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa.”
He said Germany, along with the UN’s World Food Programme, will provide an additional €15 million ($23 million) for further grain shipments from Ukraine.
Scholz was speaking as a cross-party group of lawmakers in Germany next week seeks to pass a parliamentary resolution that would recognize the 1930s famine as “genocide.”
Last year, Ukraine and Russia provided about 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley exports, 20 percent of corn and more than 50 percent of sunflower oil, the UN said.
In a post on the Telegram social network on Saturday, Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said that more than 3,000 specialists for a local utility company continued to work “around the clock” and had managed to provide heat to more than 90 percent of residential buildings . While about a quarter of Kiev residents were without electricity, he said water supplies had been returned to everyone in the city.
The battle to restore power came when Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo met with Zelensky in Kiev on Saturday.
“This could be a difficult winter,” he said, referring to Belgium’s contributions of generators and support for schools and hospitals in Ukraine, as well as military aid such as “fuel, machine guns, self-propelled artillery and so on”.
“And by standing here, we hope we give you hope and resilience to get through this difficult time.”