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‘Putin’s Holodomor’: Russia steals 400,000 tonnes of grain from occupied Ukraine sparking fears of a devastating food crisis in the country in chilling echo of Stalin’s famine

  • A Ukrainian minister said 100,000 tonnes of grain was stolen from four regions
  • Meanwhile, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman accused Russia of trying to ’cause the Holodomor’ – a reference to the famine that killed millions in the 30s
  • Russia has also attacked grain silos, fertiliser storage and stolen farm vehicles
  • Meanwhile, a clip from Russian television emerged of Putin’s propagandists suggesting that Russia steal Ukraine’s grain to sell it to China

Russia has stolen 400,000 tonnes of grain from occupied regions in Ukraine, an official has said, sparking fears of a devastating food crisis in the country.

Ukraine’s minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, Taras Vysotsky, said that 100,000 tonnes had been taken from the Zaporizhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The minister noted that the stolen grain was from each regions’ supply set aside to be used before the next harvest, meaning there is a rising threat of famine amidst Russia‘s brutal invasion of the country.

Vysotsky’s comments came after a video emerged from Ukraine that purportedly showed lorries carrying Ukrainian grain out of the country towards Russia.

The footage, filmed from inside a car driving along-side the lorries, showed a convoy of trucks with the pro-Russian war symbol ‘Z’ painted on the rear. 

In addition to stealing grain, Russia has attacked grain silos, farming infrastructure and fertiliser stores, and has stolen millions of pounds worth of farming vehicles.

This has prompted accusations against Moscow that it is attempting to starve Ukraine’s resistance by orchestrating a famine.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman, said on Monday that Russian troops were ‘purposely using measures’ to ’cause the Holodomor in Ukraine’ – in reference to the Soviet famine in Ukraine from 1932 to 1933.

The Holodomor, or Great Famine, killed as many as 10 million Ukrainians and is recognised as genocide by several countries. Many people insist it was a deliberate policy of genocide through starvation engineered by Soviet leadership.

Russia has stolen 400,000 tonnes of grain from occupied regions in Ukraine, an official has said, sparking fears of a devastating food crisis in the country. Pictured: A lorry with the pro-Russian 'Z' symbol painted on the rear purportedly transporting grain out of Ukraine

Russia has stolen 400,000 tonnes of grain from occupied regions in Ukraine, an official has said, sparking fears of a devastating food crisis in the country. Pictured: A lorry with the pro-Russian ‘Z’ symbol painted on the rear purportedly transporting grain out of Ukraine

Footage purportedly showed a convoy of Russian carrying stolen grain out of Ukraine

Footage purportedly showed a convoy of Russian carrying stolen grain out of Ukraine

Speaking on Ukrainian television on Tuesday, Taras Vysotsky said: ‘We already have confirmation from each region – Zaporizhia region, Kherson region, Donetsk, Luhansk region – that about 100 thousand (tons of grain have been taken to Russia).’

He said the grain was taken from stores that were being relied upon to feed Ukrainians until the next harvest in the country. 

His comments came after Ms Denisova took to Facebook to accuse Putin of trying to orchestrate a new Holodomor.

‘The heirs of the organizers of the Holodomor of the 1930’s are again trying to organize a genocide of the Ukrainian people through a banal robbery, which is called ‘expropriation of the surplus of last year’s and this year’s crops’,’ she wrote.

‘[The] stealing of food from the occupied territories is a violation of the 1949 Geneva convention for the protection of civilians in war and war crimes under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.’

She appealed to the United Nations human rights bodies to consider the stealing of food as war crimes, and human rights violations by Russia.

A clip from Russian state television also emerged today showing one of Vladimir Putin's propagandists gleefully suggesting Russia steal Ukraine's grain and sell it to China, to 'force the American elites to realise they need to negotiate with us'

A clip from Russian state television also emerged today showing one of Vladimir Putin’s propagandists gleefully suggesting Russia steal Ukraine’s grain and sell it to China, to ‘force the American elites to realise they need to negotiate with us’

Pictured: Grain pours into a ship at a harbour in Ukraine, before Russia's invasion. Russia and Ukraine together produce 30 percent of the world's wheat and export about three-quarters of the world's sunflower seed oil

Pictured: Grain pours into a ship at a harbour in Ukraine, before Russia’s invasion. Russia and Ukraine together produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat and export about three-quarters of the world’s sunflower seed oil

A clip from Russian state television also emerged today showing one of Vladimir Putin’s propagandists gleefully suggesting Russia steal Ukraine’s grain and sell it to China, to ‘force the American elites to realise they need to negotiate with us’. 

On Russian state television channel Russia-1, one pro-Putin commentator – Dmitry Evstafiev – was shown suggesting that Russia takes Ukrainian grain to China.

‘Ukraine’s deal with the Chinese and the corn didn’t come through,’ the commentator started saying, before being interrupted by presenter Vladimir Solovyov, who said: ‘If they (China) need it, we’ll supply them with Ukraine’s corn.’

‘Certainly, certainly,’ Evstafiev replies. ‘Especially since we have every opportunity to do it. Cutting off the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine from the Black Sea.

‘From the crop lands, from the bread-basket granary. This is the most dangerous thing. And the corn, too. And one more thing that is still ahead for us, we need to find effective points of vulnerability for Americans,’ he continued.

‘We need to think and not discuss it publicly, but we need to identify them and apply pressure to make that the last drop  that will force American elites to recognise that they need to negotiate with us. And they need to negotiate with us on our terms.’

The Dnipropetrovsk grain warehouse was destroyed by the Russian missile last week

The Dnipropetrovsk grain warehouse was destroyed by the Russian missile last week

At a press conference on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Ukraine used to be a breadbasket for the developing world.

But since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, Europe has seen its largest refugee crisis since World War II, crucial Ukrainian ports have been blocked and civilian infrastructure and grain silos have been destroyed. She said ‘desperate hunger situations in Africa and the Middle East are getting even more dire.

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, said already high food prices are skyrocketing and the war in Ukraine is turning ‘the breadbasket of the world to breadlines’ for millions of its people. 

He said it also is devastating countries like Egypt, which normally gets 85 percent of its grain from Ukraine, and Lebanon, which got 81 percent from there in 2020.

Russia and Ukraine together produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat and export about three-quarters of the world’s sunflower seed oil. 

Pictured: Grain confiscated from kulak (rich peasant) family in the village of Udachoye, in the Donetsk region during the Holodomor

Pictured: Grain confiscated from kulak (rich peasant) family in the village of Udachoye, in the Donetsk region during the Holodomor

The Holodomor, or Great Famine, was a famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, which saw the Soviet dictator Stalin (pictured) seize food supplies

The Holodomor, or Great Famine, was a famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, which saw the Soviet dictator Stalin (pictured) seize food supplies

The Holodomor: The Soviet-engineered genocide of Ukraine of the 1930s

The Holodomor, or Great Famine, was a famine in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, which saw the Soviet dictator Stalin seize food supplies.

Estimates suggest as many as ten million people were killed by the famine, that many have said was genocide through starvation, engineered by Soviet leadership.

In Ukraine itself, the Holodmor – literally, ‘hunger extermination’ – is often seen as the equivalent of the Holocaust, a gigantic, man-made operation to murder millions of people.

And behind it was not just one man — Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from the mid-Twenties to 1953 — but an entire ideology which sought to remake a peasant society according to a Utopian Communist blueprint.

Even now, in an age when we are regularly assailed by images of horror and suffering, the details of the Holodmor are heartbreaking. 

Starving children, mass graves, vigilantes, even cannibalism: the famine saw human nature stripped to the bone.

There have been efforts in Russia to downplay the famine, with some going as far to say it didn’t even occur – which was the official position of the Soviet state.

In 2003, 25 countries – including Ukraine and Russia – released a statement acknowledging that between seven and 10 million people were killed. 

In 2006, the Holodomor was recognised by 15 countries as genocide against the Ukrainian people, perpetuated by the Soviet Union.  

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Shocking video of a grain attack in Synelnykove district, south-eastern Dnipropetrovsk region also emerged earlier this week, showing a missile flying into the centre of a Ukrainian farms and causing heavy damage.

Meanwhile, around 4.5million tonnes of grain are sitting in closed occupied Ukrainian ports, according to UN World Food Programme director Martin Frick.

Mr Frick said: ‘None of the grain can be used right now. It is just sitting there.’ 

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also warned earlier this week that Russia‘s blockade will deprive dozens of countries essential food supplies. 

Zelensky said: ‘They targeted the warehouses of agricultural enterprises. The grain warehouse was destroyed. The warehouse with fertilizers was also shelled.’

The president urged world leaders to prepare for a new food crisis prompted by Russia’s food blockade on Ukraine. 

He told 60 Minutes: ‘Russia does not let ships come in or go out, it is controlling the Black Sea.

‘Russia wants to completely block our country’s economy. Ukraine could lose tens of millions of tonnes of grain due to Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports.’

At the end of April, a Russian region announced its intention to replenish its own supplies from ‘exported’ grain from Ukraine’s Kherson region. 

And Russian soldiers appeared to be planning to extract more supplies from their own land with stolen Ukrainian equipment. But it did not all go to plan. 

A fleet of 27 Ukrainian farm vehicles including combine harvesters and seeders were stolen from a tractor dealer in occupied Melitopol over a several week period.

Their combined value totalled £4million, with the harvesters going for £240,00 each.

But after loading the vehicles onto trucks and carrying them 700 miles to Chechnya, the Russian army realised they couldn’t even use them.

A source close to the dealer told CNN: ‘When the invaders drove the stolen harvesters to Chechnya, they realized that they could not even turn them on, because the harvesters were locked remotely.’

Destroyed houses are photographed in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 30

Destroyed houses are photographed in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 30

The United Nations on Wednesday said that the number of people without enough to eat on a daily basis reached an all-time high last year and is poised to hit ‘appalling’ new levels as the war in Ukraine affects global food production.

Almost 193 million people in 53 countries suffered acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the UN said was a ‘toxic triple combination’ of conflict, weather extremes and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN said the total number of people without adequate food every day increased by 40 million last year, confirming a ‘worrisome trend’ of annual increases over several years.

The figures appeared in the Global Report on Food Crisis, which is produced jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme and the European Union.

Countries experiencing protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, had the most food-insecure populations, according to the report.

The report forecasts that Somalia will face one of the world’s worst food crises in 2022 due to prolonged drought, increasing food prices and persistent violence.

The various factors could lead six million Somalis into acute food crisis, the UN said.

‘Today, if more is not done to support rural communities, the scale of the devastation in terms of hunger and lost livelihoods will be appalling,’ the UN said.

‘Urgent humanitarian action is needed on a massive scale to prevent that from happening.’

The war in Ukraine poses further risks for Somalia and many other African countries that reply on Ukraine and Russia for wheat, fertiliser and other food supplies.

The United Nations previously said the war was helping to send prices for commodities such as grains and vegetable oils to record highs, threatening millions with hunger and malnourishment.

‘When we look at the consequences of what’s happening as a result of the war in Ukraine, there is real cause for concern of how this will amplify the acute food needs that exist in these food crisis countries,’ said Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s office of emergencies and resilience.

The report called for greater investment in agriculture and appealed for 1.5 billion US dollars (£1.2 billion) to help farmers in at-risk regions with the upcoming planting season to help stabilise and increase local food production. 

Ukrainian grain exports fall to around 923,000 tonnes in April from 2.8 million tonnes in the same month in 2021 due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, analyst APK-Inform said on Wednesday.

The consultancy said in a report the country’s exports included 768,486 tonnes of corn and 127,130 tonnes of wheat. Ukraine also exported 151,529 tonnes of sunflower oil and 169,681 tonnes of oilseeds, mostly sunseed.

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