Ukrainian mayor says with Black Sea blockade, Putin seeks to “blackmail the whole world” by starving its neediest

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Dnipro, Ukraine — Towns in Ukraine‘s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas are being reduced to ash by Russia’s advancing forces. Ukraine’s leaders, and its soldiers on the battlefield, say it won’t stop there.

“It’s not just the Donbas region they’re after,” one Ukrainian soldier warned of Vladimir Putin’s forces. “They want to move forward. They send their people to death…to destroy our nation.”

But Russia’s animosity appears to extend even beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Putin’s naval blockade in the Black Sea has left some 25 million tons of harvested grain to rot at Ukraine’s southern ports. Most of it was earmarked for developing countries, including South Sudan. Citing skyrocketing global food costs, the World Food Program has said it’s slashing the amount of aid it can provide to 1.7 million people in the impoverished African nation.


Russians using food as weapon in eastern Ukraine

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The WFP’s acting country director in South Sudan, Adeyinka Badejo-Sanogo, said the reduction would have a severe impact on people already “experiencing emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity… especially because these cuts are happening at the start of the lean season, when families have completely exhausted any food reserves.”

Around the world, millions of people risk starving because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Unless Russia removes its mines and warships from Ukraine’s coastal waters, Ukrainian commanders say the only salvation can be advanced heavy weapons systems from the U.S. and its allies.

Ukraine Russia
A Russian Navy boat of the Black Sea Fleet patrols the entrance to the Mariupol Sea Port in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine – territory under the control of the pro-Russian, separatist Donetsk People’s Republic – on May 30, 2022.

AP


They need the weapons to help them protect the country’s ports, and also its grain silos, Mayor Borys Filatov of Dnipro, in central Ukraine, told CBS News.

“Russia wants to control the global food markets in order to blackmail the whole world,” he said. 

The mayor added a warning that if Putin gets away with it, “all the tyrants of the world will see that they can be left unpunished.”

Right now, Filatov said his country desperately needs more weapons from its global partners — not to turn the tide in the war, but to survive. 

“It’s not just that we don’t have enough weapons for a counter offensive,” he said of the Ukrainian forces battling Russia’s offensive in the east. “We don’t even have enough weapons to effectively defend ourselves.”

Ukraine is pleading for more heavy weapons, including 1,000 more drones, 1,000 more howitzer artillery pieces and 500 tanks.

While the U.S. government is expected to unveil yet another military aid package soon, thus far the Biden administration has sent dozens of howitzers to Ukraine, not hundreds, and it’s unclear how far the White House will go toward meeting Kyiv’s request with the next weapons shipment.

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