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Famine, Ukraine, and a Soufflé of Kremlin Falsehoods

Local residents gather outside a residential building in the southern port city of Mariupol on April 21, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS)
Local residents gather outside a residential building in the southern port city of Mariupol on April 21, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS)
Senior Russian officials

Senior Russian officials

“U.S. plans a Holodomor in Ukraine … Russia’s actions have no impact on the world’s food problem.”

Source: Russian state sources, May 11, 2022

On May 11, senior Russian officials made false statements about the impact of the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine’s farm exports and global food supplies. They come as concerns mount from global aid organizations about shortages and starvation.

Before the war, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said, enough food to supply 400 million people was shipped from Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea, which are now locked down under a Russian blockade.

“WFP’s analysis found that 276 million people worldwide were already facing acute hunger at the start of 2022,” the agency said. “That number is expected to rise by 47 million people if the conflict in Ukraine continues, with the steepest rises in sub-Saharan Africa.”

State Duma (lower house of parliament) Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said:

“The United States is preparing a Holodomor in Ukraine and, instead of providing real help, taking from Ukraine what is most necessary.”

That is false.

The Holodomor refers to the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine caused by Soviet collectivization policies under dictator Joseph Stalin. The homes of peasants were ransacked for food, Ukrainian towns were blacklisted from rations, and millions starved.

In fact, credible reports say Russia in this war has stolen food supplies after destroying Ukraine’s storage capacity. Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces looted hundreds of thousands of tons of grain from Ukraine, a major exporter of wheat and seeds.

According to a senior United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization official, it is believed that Russia has stolen some 700,000 tons of grain from Ukraine since the war began.

The evidence remains “anecdotal” because it is impossible to collect statistics during wartime, the official said, adding that Russia also allegedly stole farm equipment.

Contrary to Volodin’s claims, the United States is providing Ukraine with the humanitarian and military aid the country needs to overcome Russia’s military aggression and the devastation Russian forces brought to Ukrainian cities, villages and industries. U.S. security assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration amounts to $2 billion and will increase with the approval of lend-lease program for Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said:

“Our actions have no impact on the world’s food problems whatsoever.”

That is false.

Before Russia’s all-out invasion in February, Ukraine was among world’s top exporters of corn ($4.89 billion) and wheat ($4.61 billion), and the world’s biggest exporter of seed oils ($5.32 billion). Russia’s war is interrupting the agricultural cycle, preventing food exports, disrupting food supply chains, and causing food shortages worldwide.

U.S. lawmakers are pressing for a humanitarian corridor to allow Black Sea shipments halted because of a Russian blockade, Politico reported on May 11. Ukraine’s wheat supplies are critical to multiple Mideast countries, among others.

“While European Union officials, with U.S. help, are set to announce a new effort to ship Ukrainian grain over land routes via rail and truck, the land routes are expensive and time-consuming to establish, and even the planners acknowledge they won’t make up for the volume that can be moved by seaport,” the outlet reported.

“They’re sitting now on 12 million tons of agricultural products from the last harvest that will spoil by this fall unless it’s shipped,” U.S. Congressman Jason Crow said. Crow was part of a delegation that met with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month.

Foreign Intelligence Director Sergey Naryshkin said:

“The actions of the U.S. State Department, which tries discrediting Russian authorities and the Russian military by spreading false information, have much in common with the traditions of the Third Reich ministry of propaganda and its head Joseph Goebbels.”

That is false.

In fact, Russia’s bogus use of the “nazi” label to attack Ukraine and other opponents of its illegal war has been widely debunked. Several dozen scholars of genocide have condemned it, writing:

“Russian propaganda has painted the Ukrainian state as Nazi and fascist ever since Russian special forces first entered Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimea and fomenting the conflict in the Donbas, which has smoldered for eight long years. It was propaganda in 2014. It remains propaganda today.”

Meantime, Russia’s military stands accused of war crimes, including looting, killing thousands of civilians, bombing hospitals, schools and maternity wards, and potential genocide.