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G7: Russia extending Ukraine military war to 'grain war', says German FM Baerbock

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By AP with Euronews
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A landowner counts bags of wheat on a farm in the Nile Delta province of al-Sharqia, Egypt, May 11, 2022. Egypt is trying to boost domestic production due to the Ukraine war.
A landowner counts bags of wheat on a farm in the Nile Delta province of al-Sharqia, Egypt, May 11, 2022. Egypt is trying to boost domestic production due to the Ukraine war.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Amr Nabil

The Group of Seven leading economies warned Saturday that the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and urgent measures are needed to unblock stores of grain that Russia is preventing from leaving Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis.”

Baerbock said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, would face hunger in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a sizeable share of the worldwide supply.

"Russia has deliberately chosen to extend the military war against Ukraine now as a grain or you can say grain war to many states in the world, especially in Africa," she said.

"We must not be naive. This is not collateral damage. It is a deliberately chosen instrument in a hybrid war that is being waged right now. Russia is preparing the ground for new crises to deliberately weaken international cohesion against Russia's war," the foreign minister added.

In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, the G-7 pledged to provide further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.

“Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe,” the group said.

“We are determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to preserve global food security and stand by our most vulnerable partners in this respect,” it added.

Canada's foreign minister, Melanie Joly, said her country, another major agricultural exporter, stands ready to send ships to European ports so Ukrainian grain can be brought to those in need.

“We need to make sure that these cereals are sent to the world,” she told reporters. “If not, millions of people will be facing famine.”

The G-7 nations also called on China not to help Russia, including by undermining international sanctions or justifying Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Beijing should support the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, and not "assist Russia in its war of aggression,” they said.

The G-7, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, also called on China “to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”

The meeting in Weissenhaus, northeast of Hamburg, was billed as an opportunity for officials to discuss the broader implications of the war for geopolitics, energy and food security, and ongoing international efforts to tackle climate change and the pandemic.

On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country remains willing to talk to Russia about unblocking grain supplies stuck in Ukraine's silos and also about reaching a political agreement to end the war itself, but had so far received “no positive feedback” from Moscow.

India has announced that it is banning exports of wheat with immediate effect, citing a risk to its food security, partly due to the war in Ukraine.

The country's own wheat harvest has suffered from a record-shattering heat wave that is stunting production.

India is the world’s second-largest wheat producer but consumes most of it. Since the disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine it had hoped to find new markets for its wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia.