Russia expands attack on food with bombing of train to José Andrés World Central Kitchen

A dozen meat paddles, two fresh vegetable paddles, three fruit paddles. There was fish, pasta, buckwheat and sugar. All en route to needy families in Ukraine. All destroyed.

A Russian missile on Wednesday hit a train near Donetsk, Ukraine, carrying 34 pallets of food distributed by World Central Kitchen, the aid organization of chef José Andrés. Food never reached starving Ukrainians, another example of how Russia has targeted food as its army struggles to pull off its unprovoked invasion.

“Railway infrastructure, which was relatively untouched at the start of the war, is now a priority target,” said World Central Kitchen executive director Nate Mook. Forbes. “It became a battle against people and their ability to eat.”

Mook, who has returned to Washington after 120 days feeding Ukrainians from Kyiv to Odessa, says attacks on trains are on the rise as rail has become a main means of transporting food due to the blockade Russian Black Sea. Russian diplomats are currently trying to negotiate an easing of sanctions in exchange for a safe corridor to export key agricultural exports like wheat and sunflower oil. Exporting this food is needed as pockets of famine deepen around the world. Timing is critical. In East Africa, one person probably dies of acute hunger every 48 seconds, according to a May report by Oxfam.

“There doesn’t seem to be any interest for Russia in letting the food leave Ukraine,” says Mook. “They’re trying to blackmail the world by saying, ‘We’re going to starve people all over the world unless you release the sanctions.'”

A Russian government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian troops recently fired missiles at grain silos and destroyed rail infrastructure meant to transport grain, according to the Ukrainian government. Russian fighters also stole up to 500,000 tons of grain from occupied areas and tried to sell it on the international market, the Ukrainian government said. With food as his focus, Mook says he is concerned about his organization’s 4,300 volunteers in the country.

“We basically have to operate on the assumption that we will be targeted, particularly, even if we’re not part of the fighting,” Mook said.

It is estimated that 20 million tons of grain are trapped in Ukrainian grain silos. The decrease in supply contributes to the increase in prices. Much of it would have been exported to countries in North Africa and the Middle East. Now that the wheat harvest begins at the end of this month, more storage space is needed, and if more space is not made soon, a lot of grain could go bad while tens of millions of people die. of hunger in the world.

If Russia does not lift its blockade of Black Sea ports, which typically ship some 30% of the world’s grain exports, Ukraine could only export 2 million tonnes per month, a third of what it did before. could ship monthly. Even if Russia lifts the blockade, there are mines in many ports, placed by Russian and Ukrainian fighters, which would still need to be cleared before ships can safely pass.

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