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Russia is using hunger as a weapon in its war and an instrument of domination, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in a speech to the Irish parliament.
He accused President Vladimir Putin of trying to cut off vital food supplies for people in Ukraine and also further afield by preventing cargo from being exported.
In a virtual address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday morning, Mr Zelenskyy said Russia had carried out missile strikes on a Ukrainian oil depot overnight.
“This is their attribute,” he said.
“They’re destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods of people. They’re [targeting] places where were saw fuel, food storage depots, agricultural equipment and fields. They’re putting mines into the fields.
“They also have blocked all of our seaports together with our vessels which already had agricultural cargos for exports.
“Why are they doing this? Because for them hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us, ordinary people, as an instrument of domination. Ukraine is one of the leading food supplying countries in the world.”
He said Russia’s actions in Ukraine were a threat to food supplies in countries around the world including those in Africa and Asia, and accused Moscow of “deliberately provoking a food crisis”.
“There will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up and this is the reality for the millions of people who are hungry and it will be more difficult for them to feed their families, especially in North Africa.”
Russian troops are targeting Odesa with missiles in a bid to cut the strategic port city off from the outside world. Ukraine is the fifth largest exporter of wheat, accounting for 7 per cent of sales globally in 2019, and the Black Sea port of Odesa handles around 60 per cent of the country’s sea cargo.
Mr Zelenskyy warned dwindling food exports from Ukraine risked causing “political turbulence” in countries which rely heavily on the former Soviet nation to feed citizens. This scenario, he said, could lead possibly lead to the mass exodus of refugees from their homelands in search of food.
He also touched on the siege of Mariupol, accusing the Russians of “bombing 24/7” and blocking humanitarian cargos attempting to reach the stranded residents. Around 160,000 residents who remain in the Sea of Azov port have for weeks endured harsh conditions after access to water and electricity was cut off and the city’s food supplies dwindled.
“While it was snowing people could melt the snow to get water, now they don’t have even that,” Mr Zelenskyy said.
He said residents had been forced to bury the dead “in the yards of their condominiums” or had to leave bodies rotting in streets and bombed out building.
“They are bombing 24/7, air strikes, bombings in Mariupol. There is no single house left intact.”
He urged Ireland’s political leaders to use their influence to convince EU nations to usher in tougher sanctions to halt the Russian war machine.
Brussels is expected to announce a further package of sanctions against Russia on Wednesday. The European Commission has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia and a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks as part of its fifth round of punitive measures.
Mr Zelenskyy was given a standing ovation after delivering his speech, and Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin delivered a message to Ukrainian refugees who have in recent weeks sought sanctuary in Ireland.
“To those who have arrived here from Ukraine, I hope you find in Ireland safe harbour and friendship for as long as you need it. In the meantime, our home is your home,” he said.
Mr Zelenskyy's speech to Irish politicians came after he used an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday to call for an inquiry similar to the Nuremburg trials to be set up to investigate possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine. He said civilians in towns around Kyiv had been tortured, shot in the back of the head, thrown down wells, blown up with grenades in their apartments and crushed to death by tanks while in cars.
Those who carried out the killings and those who gave the orders “must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes” in front of a tribunal similar to the one established at Nuremberg after the Second World War, he said.
“Today, as a result of Russia’s actions in our country, in Ukraine, the most terrible war crimes we’ve seen since the end of the Second World War are being committed,” he said in the online address.
“Russian troops are deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities to ashes with artillery and air strikes. They are deliberately blocking cities, creating mass starvation. They deliberately shoot columns of civilians on the road trying to escape from the hostilities.
“They even deliberately blow up shelters where civilians hide from air strikes.
“The massacre in our city of Bucha is unfortunately only one of many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our land for the past 41 days.”