Ukraine envoy slams grain blockade
Ambassador says Russian move could stoke food crisis
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Grateful for Manitobans’ support during the war in her homeland, Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada has accused Russia of trying to stoke a food crisis by restoring its blockade of Kyiv’s grain exports.
Yuliya Kovaliv suggested the fallout could be dire in poor nations that heavily depend on Ukraine, the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat, as she condemned the Kremlin’s latest tactic.
“This grain initiative allows Ukraine to continue to export (its) grain to the world, and especially to the African countries and Middle East countries,” she told the Free Press on Sunday during a visit to Winnipeg.
The blockade resumed when Moscow suspended its involvement in a July deal, brokered by the United Nations, allowing safe passage of ships transporting grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Russia — the world’s top wheat exporter, according to U.S. data — claims the move is in response to a drone attack against its fleet off the coast of annexed Crimea. Ukraine denies the attack.
“We understand how important it is to provide the people all over the world with food. We as a country went through Holodomor,” said Kovaliv. “What Russia is doing now is trying to create the same food crisis, but that will be (for) millions of people around the world.”
The Holodomor was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of people from 1932-33. Canada recognizes it as a genocide.
Kovaliv addressed the situation while making her first visit to Manitoba since becoming Kyiv’s ambassador to Canada.
She was appointed in March, about two weeks after Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
On Sunday, she visited an interactive mobile classroom that travels around Canada to teach people about the famine.
The Holodomor National Awareness Tour bus was parked outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at The Forks for four days in conjunction with the national gathering of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Held in Winnipeg, the three-day conference was hosted by the UCC’s Manitoba council.
Kovaliv thanked the Manitobans who’ve shown solidarity with Ukraine and supported the roughly 12,000 Ukrainian citizens who’ve travelled to the province while fleeing the war.
Manitoba has the highest proportion of Canadians of Ukrainian descent, with a total of about 180,000.
“What I felt here in Manitoba is a great welcoming to many of the Ukrainians who are temporarily moving to Manitoba to find a safer place,” said Kovaliv.
During her time in Winnipeg, she met with Premier Heather Stefanson and members of Parliament, in addition to participating in the UCC’s 27th triennial congress, which sets out the community’s priorities and elects its leadership for the next three years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the congress during a day-long stop in Winnipeg on Friday.
He announced Ottawa is issuing new five-year Ukraine Sovereignty Bonds to raise money for Ukraine’s government and help it to provide essential services such as pensions and fuel for winter.
“As Russia continues its illegal and unjustifiable aggression against Ukraine, Canada will continue to support the Ukrainian government and people,” Trudeau said in a news release. “In standing up for themselves, Ukrainians are standing up for democracy everywhere.”
The money will be channelled to Ukraine via the International Monetary Fund.
Kovaliv welcomed the bonds announcement, saying financial aid is urgently needed as Ukrainians brace for a difficult winter.
“Since I arrived to Canada, and several times (in Manitoba), I’m having the question, ‘How can we help Ukraine?’ she said. “This is an easy way how the people in different communities can support our fight for democracy, for freedom and sovereignty.”
Russia has destroyed more than 30 per cent of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, she said, leaving vulnerable people, children and others without electricity, heat or running water.
“The winter is coming, and the winter in Ukraine is almost alike to the climate here in Winnipeg and Manitoba,” said Kovaliv. “We need to gather all of our efforts to help millions of Ukrainians to go through this hard winter.
“We will be able to support both the IDPs (internally displaced persons) and the most vulnerable people to go through this hard winter.
“Our farmers will also need the support next spring. They were able to plant and collect the harvest, and we need that to continue the next year. We need to provide food to the world.”
Ottawa has committed $2 billion in financial assistance to Kyiv this year. It has also committed more than $600 million in military assistance.
Trudeau on Friday also announced sanctions on 35 more Russians, who are “complicit” in the invasion, in a bid to put pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
“We feel Canada is a strong supporter, but also a true friend of Ukraine in this hard time,” said Kovaliv.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.