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Issued on: 25/07/2023 - 13:13




In an interview with FRANCE 24, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned Russia's recent strikes on Ukraine's Black Sea ports in the wake of Moscow's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. "Russia's objective is to provoke the increase of [a] global food crisis, export its own grain without any hindrances and make as much money as they can," Kuleba said. "But the people of Ukraine and Africa are paying the price." He added: "Russia will fill its pockets to fund [its] war machine, at the expense of Africa”.  

Kuleba said recent Russian strikes on the Ukrainian port of Reni, on the border with NATO member Romania are a way for Russian President Vladimir Putin to "test the reaction of NATO".

"NATO has to react firmly and decisively in response to this," he said. He confirmed that "Russian ships, wherever they are in the Black Sea, become legitimate targets" in response to Moscow's own warning that civilian ships heading to Ukrainian ports would now be targets.

The top Ukrainian diplomat vowed that Kyiv would "keep trying" to revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative following Russia's withdrawal. He added, however, that if this is not feasible, an alternative sea route to export Ukrainian grain needs to be put in place, as well as ensuring exports to Europe.

Kuleba said he was aware of Russian attempts to export its grain via Qatar and Turkey. He said it would be "shameful" for any country to take part in such a deal, adding that the move shows that Russia "wants to make more money, benefitting from higher prices provoked by their own actions".

He said it would be "unacceptable" for Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria to block Ukraine's agricultural exports beyond a September 15 deadline that was previously agreed.

"One of the reasons why Russia is destroying Ukrainian agricultural grain infrastructure is because they want to provoke additional tensions between Ukraine and its neighbours," he argued. "We should not play Putin's game." 

Upcoming Russia-Africa summit 'a whitewashing instrument'

The top Ukrainian diplomat claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was hosting a Russia-Africa summit later this week in St Petersburg "as a whitewashing instrument for his reputation", and not in order to benefit the continent.

Regarding the Wagner paramilitary group's presence in Africa, Kuleba noted that Ukraine had "a valuable amount of information" that could help African countries beef up their security.

Turning to the issue of weapons, Kuleba said that while Ukraine is seeking US-made long-range ATACMS missiles, Kyiv is already receiving long-range missiles from the UK and France. "So this is not the item that we do not have. We need more but in principle, we have it," he said. He added that demining material was also "a very topical need".

Finally, with regards to talks over US-made F-16 fighter jets, he said "this deal is done". He noted that if Ukraine received the fighter jets, Kyiv would "not depend on Russian blackmail in exporting Ukrainian grain to global markets".

"The sooner we receive them, the sooner we will be able to launch a new corridor," he said. If this happened, "millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain will make it to the global market, stabilising prices, lowering them, helping people to avoid famine and most importantly, depriving Russia of its blackmail leverage on the world."

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