Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of holding Africa “hostage” by blocking wheat deliveries and contributing to rising food prices on the continent.
In a video speech to African Union leaders Monday, Zelenskyy said, "This war may seem very distant to you and your countries. But catastrophically, rising food prices have already brought it home to millions of African families."
He said Ukraine is holding “complex multilevel negotiations” to try to end Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports.
"But there is no progress yet. ... That is why the global food crisis will continue as long as this colonial war continues," he said.
Russia denies it is deliberately blocking wheat exports from Ukraine and blames sanctions imposed by Western nations for rising global food prices.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “a real war crime.” He told the EU’s top diplomats gathered in Luxembourg on Monday, “It is inconceivable, one cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering (from) hunger.”
On the battlefront, fighting raged Monday in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. Russian allied separatist forces claimed to have captured the town of Toshkivka, south of the city of Sievierodonetsk, where fighting has been centered in recent weeks, according to Reuters.
While Russia failed early in the war to topple Zelenskyy’s government and capture the capital, Kyiv, intense fighting is taking place in the eastern part of the country, centering on the embattled industrial city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk province, which is part of the broader Donbas region that Russia is trying to control.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press Monday that the situation in Sievierodonetsk was “very difficult.” He said Ukrainian forces remain in control of only one area — around the Azot chemical plant, where Ukrainian fighters and about 500 civilians are taking shelter.
Zelenskyy warned of “greater hostile activity from Russia” this week as EU leaders consider whether to support candidate status for Ukraine in the European Union.
“And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries. We are preparing. We are ready. We are warning partners,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday.
The European Commission recommended last week that Ukraine receive candidate status. The 27-member states will discuss the issue and give their votes during a summit Thursday and Friday. If Ukraine does advance to candidate status, the process for joining the EU in full could take several years.
Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland are discussing sanctions and other ways to boost economic pressure against Russia in a meeting Monday in Toronto.
“They’ll also discuss joint efforts to mitigate the global consequences being felt because of Russia's aggression, including the need to boost production of fossil fuels in the short term to address high gas and energy costs, and reiterate the importance of adopting clean energy technologies that break our dependence over the medium-term,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Sunday that Russia’s war in Ukraine could be long-lasting but said Western allies should not curb their support for Kyiv’s forces.
“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years,” Stoltenberg told the German weekly Bild am Sonntag. “We must not let up in supporting Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Friday with an offer of training for Ukrainian forces, also warned against the risk of “Ukraine fatigue” as the war grinds on toward the four-month mark in the coming days.
In an opinion piece in London’s Sunday Times, Johnson said this meant ensuring “Ukraine receives weapons, equipment, ammunition and training more rapidly than the invader.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.