Multiple sources told CNN on Thursday that Russia has stolen a vast amount of farm equipment and grain in occupied Ukrainian areas, a practice that threatens to amplify shortages in the world food supply.
The Kremlin forces are also actively targeting Ukrainian food storage sites with artillery as they tighten their grip on the agricultural regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, the sources said.
Ukrainian Deputy Agricultural Minister Taras Vysotsky told Ukrayinska Pravda that “about 1.3 million tons of grain were left in the temporarily occupied territories.”
“These are, first of all, needed to ensure daily food security and the nutrition of Ukrainians living there, and the necessary spring fieldwork in terms of spring crops. There were no strategic reserves there …”
“We already have confirmation from each region — Zaporizhia region, Kherson region, Donetsk, Luhansk, from each of about 100 thousand tons of grain has been exported.”
The news comes several weeks after Russian soldiers removed 1,500 tons of grain from storage units in the Kherson village of Mala Lepetykha, dumping them in the Dnieper River, according to CNN.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement in late April that it “strongly condemns the criminal actions of the Russian Federation in the so-called expropriation of crops from farmers in the Kherson region,” Reuters reported.
“The looting of grain from the Kherson region, as well as the blocking of shipments from Ukrainian ports and the mining of shipping lanes, threaten the world’s food security,” the ministry continued. “We demand that Russia stop the illegal theft of grain, unblock Ukrainian ports, restore freedom of navigation and allow the passage of merchant ships.”
When asked by Reuters if Russia could verify Ukraine’s accusations, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, “No. We do not know where this information comes from.”