Ukrainian MP begs Canada for more heavy weapons so it can break through Russian blockades and export grain

Yulia Klymenko said global food supply chain interruptions are not just ‘collateral damage’ of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but a weapon the Kremlin is using

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OTTAWA — Ukrainian MP Yulia Klymenko had a stark warning for Canadian parliamentarians on Monday: “Food is the weapon” in Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine.

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Speaking to the Commons agriculture committee, Klymenko called on Canada and its Western allies to provide more heavy weaponry so it can break through Russia’s military and export up to 22 million tonnes of grain to struggling African and Asian countries.

Ukraine is considered one of the world’s key “bread baskets,” accounting for at least 10 per cent of the world’s wheat market, 13 per cent of the barley market, 15 per cent of the maze market, and over 50 per cent of the world’s sunflower oil market, according to testimony by European Union Trade Counsellor Maud Labat.

Ukraine exports most of its grain by its seaports, and its main clients are developing and vulnerable Asian and African countries such as Yemen, Bangladesh, Lebanon and Somalia, whose economies are extremely sensitive to food price increases.

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has blocked the exports, triggering warnings from the United Nation Secretary General of a possible “hurricane of hunger” and a “meltdown of the global food system” because of issues caused by Russia’s blockades and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Klymenko, who appeared virtually from an undisclosed location, said the most important message she had for Canadian MPs was that global food supply chain interruptions were not just “collateral damage” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but very much a weapon being used by the Kremlin.

“It was a planned hybrid weapon to further massively destabilize the global economy and political order through instigation of famine in Africa and Asia that will result in flooding migration to North America and western Europe,” she told MPs, saying this was the same playbook used by Russia in the Syrian civil war that led to millions of Syrians fleeing the country.

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“This time, food is the weapon, and the scale of the crisis will be much bigger,” said Klymenko, who is also first deputy chairman of Ukraine’s committee on transport and infrastructure

  1. A dockyard worker watches as barley grain is mechanically poured into a 40,000 ton ship at a Ukrainian agricultural exporter's shipment terminal in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikolaev July 9, 2013.

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  2. A harvester at work in the Khmelnytskyi region of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine account for about 28 per cent of the world's wheat exports.

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Right now, Ukraine has roughly 22 to 30 million tonnes of grain sitting in storage, and it is growing grain on the remaining 80 per cent of the country’s arable land, Klymenko said. (The other 20 per cent is either under Russian occupation, is unusable because of landmines, or both.)

She said that because of reduced domestic demand caused by citizens fleeing, Ukraine would in fact be able to fulfill virtually all its regular exports.

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But the government and farmers are unable to get the grain out of storage and the country because of Russian blockades at Ukrainian ports as well as widespread destruction of roughly one quarter of Ukraine’s railway infrastructure.

Blocking Ukrainian grain export ships from leaving port at Odessa are “25 or more” Russian warships and submarines as well as an unknown number of sea mines that all need to be destroyed, Klymenko told the committee.

“What we need to do together to avoid a global food crisis: Ukraine has to defeat Russia in the sea, in the air, and on the ground,” the Ukrainian MP said.

And that’s where Canada can be of further assistance to Ukraine, committee members heard. Canada needs to provide more heavy weaponry that would allow Ukraine to clear out its waters, protect its grain transports from air attacks and generally push back the Russian invaders.

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Klymenko said Ukraine namely needs more light armoured vehicles (LAV), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), 155 mm artillery rounds, NATO standards ammunition as well as robot de-mining systems.

“The only sustainable way unfortunately, is heavy weapons so we can clean and unblock our ports. But we need the heavy weapons, which we don’t have, for cleaning and de-mining, and also anti-ships missiles. This is the best sustainable way,” Klymenko told Canadian MPs.

“It will be much cheaper to invest into heavy weapons for Ukraine than to try to resolve prolonged global famine, migration and threats and geopolitical turmoil,” she added.

She begged Canada to act quickly, as much of the crops sitting in storage will have to be wasted when harvesting time comes in order to welcome this year’s harvest.

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“The world depends on our grains. We cannot allow ourselves just to burn it. So if we cannot unfortunately transport these grains, we will have to waste it, to burn it, because we need to put new crop in the storages,” Klymenko said.

The MP also exhorted Canadian politicians not to give in to Russian “blackmail” of offering to allow Ukrainian food exports to go through in exchange for the lifting of international economic sanctions on the Kremlin.

Klymenko also congratulated Canada for imposing a 35 per cent tariff on Russian fertilizer as part of sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think it’s a good solution because any dollar, Canadian, U.S., or any kind of dollar or euro going to Russia, they turn to bullets and killing us. So they have to be insulated economically and politically,” she said.



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