UK's Boris Johnson wants action on Ukrainian grain as Zelenskyy seeks more support

UK wants grain supplies moved out of blockaded ports to benefit Kyiv's economy and battle world food shortage

Pro-Ukrainian demonstrators near the G7 leaders' summit in Bavaria. Reuters.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will urge leaders of some of the world’s richest countries to do more to support his nation’s fight against Russia.

Mr Zelenskyy will address US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders by video link from Kyiv as his country continues to come under attack from Russian missiles.

In his nightly address on Sunday, he urged the allies to be “partners, not observers” and give his country the ability to defend itself, warning that any delay would be an invitation to Russia to strike again.

Mr Johnson will use Monday’s session at the G7 summit in Germany to call for urgent action to help get vital grain supplies out of Ukraine’s blockaded ports, to support the country’s economy and alleviate shortages around the world.

Time is running out to prevent stores of grain rotting in silos, with July’s harvest set to worsen the problem.

As Russian missile strikes continued to hit Ukrainian towns and cities, Mr Johnson said the country was on a “knife edge”, with Russian troops advancing in the east.

The blockade of major Ukrainian ports such as Odesa, attacks on farms and warehouses and the wider impact of the Russian invasion have all added to the problems blocking food from the country reaching the global market.

Ukraine previously supplied 10 per cent of the world’s wheat, up to 17 per cent of the world’s maize and half of the world’s sunflower oil.

About 25 million tonnes of corn and wheat is at risk of rotting in Ukrainian silos.

Mr Johnson will call for an international solution to the crisis, including overland routes for grain supplies to beat the Russian blockade, with £10 million ($12.2m) in materials and equipment to repair damaged railways.

The UK has also been urging Turkey, which controls access to the Black Sea, to do more to get grain supplies out by ship.

Russia’s actions have driven up food prices globally, including in the UK, while 47 million people around the world in countries dependent on Ukrainian grain are at risk of humanitarian disaster.

“Putin’s actions in Ukraine are creating terrible aftershocks across the world, driving up energy and food prices as millions of people are on the brink of famine," Mr Johnson will tell G7 leaders on Monday.

“Only [Russian President Vladimir] Putin can end this needless and futile war.

“But global leaders need to come together and apply their combined economic and political heft to help Ukraine and make life easier for households across the world. Nothing should be off the table.”

Mr Johnson also wants G7 leaders to look at the use of grain for biofuel, claiming its use for vehicles may be reducing availability and pushing up food costs.

The UK will also put £1.5m into developing a testing process to identify whether grain sold by Russia has been illegally smuggled from Ukraine.

Mr Johnson has played down the prospect of the Royal Navy being sent in to help merchant vessels beat the Russian blockade.

But he has said British expertise in “remote de-mining” and insurance of shipping in contested waters could help vessels to move the grain out by sea.

Mr Zelenskyy will address the G7 and Nato summits over coming days.

Ahead of his speech to the G7 leaders gathered in the luxury Schloss Elmau hotel in the Bavarian Alps, Mr Zelenskyy said he would demand extra defence systems to battle the missile bombardment.

“We need a powerful air defence – modern, fully effective – which can ensure complete protection against these missiles,” he said.

“We talk about this every day with our partners. There are already some agreements. And partners need to move faster if they are really partners, not observers.

“Delays in the transfer of weapons to our state, any restrictions, are actually an invitation for Russia to strike again and again.

“The occupiers — these terrorists — must be beaten with all our might so that they do not think they can put pressure and outplay someone.”

Updated: June 27, 2022, 6:00 AM