Ukraine: Death Sentences & An International Food Crisis

AP News: In Wake of Ukraine Invasion, global food crisis looms

June 8, 2022
The consequences of the war are being felt far beyond Eastern Europe because shipments of Ukrainian grain are bottled up inside the country, driving up the price of food.

Ukraine, long known as the “bread basket of Europe,” is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but much of that flow has been halted by the war and a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. An estimated 22 million tons of grain remains in Ukraine. The failure to ship it out is endangering the food supply in many developing countries, especially in Africa.

Russia expressed support Wednesday for a U.N. plan to create a safe corridor at sea that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments. The plan, among other things, calls for Ukraine to remove mines from the waters near the Black Sea port of Odesa.

But Russia is insisting that it be allowed to check incoming vessels for weapons. And Ukraine has expressed fear that clearing the mines could enable Russia to attack the coast. Ukrainian officials said the Kremlin’s assurances that it wouldn’t do that cannot be trusted.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the U.N. has been working on a deal that would export millions of tons of grain and other commodities from Ukraine and Russia. (June 8)
European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday accused the Kremlin of “weaponizing food supplies and surrounding their actions with a web of lies, Soviet-style.”

While Russia, which is also a major supplier of grain to the rest of the world, has blamed the looming food crisis on Western sanctions against Moscow, the European Union heatedly denied that and said the blame rests with Russia itself for waging war against Ukraine.

“These are Russian ships and Russian missiles that are blocking the export of crops and grain,” Michel said. “Russian tanks, bombs and mines are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.”

The West has exempted grain and other food from its sanctions against Russia, but the U.S. and the EU have imposed sweeping punitive measures against Russian ships. Moscow argues that those restrictions make it impossible to use its ships to export grain, and also make other shipping companies reluctant to carry its product.

Turkey has sought to play a role in negotiating an end to the war and in brokering the resumption of grain shipments. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Ukraine was not invited to the talks.

Politico Nightly, June 9, 2022: DEATH SENTENCES IN SHOW TRIALS — Kremlin-controlled authorities have sentenced to death two British citizens and a Moroccan national who all served in Ukraine’s military after a three-day show trial in which no evidence in their favor was presented, Christopher Miller writes.

[Politico: Chris Miller] has spent the better part of 12 years as a foreig correspondent reporting from Ukraine and around Eastern Europe, becoming one of the most authoritative voices in the region. He comes to POLITICO {mid-April 2022} from BuzzFeed News, where he covered Russia’s full-scale invasion on the ground in Ukraine . . . . He was once a Peace Corps Volunteer in eastern Ukraine, where he polished his Russian and endeavored to understand surzhyk, an ever-evolving blend of Russian and Ukrainian.]

British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, and Moroccan national Saadoun Brahim, were convicted of being foreign mercenaries and partaking in “terrorist” activities when captured by Russian forces — the Brits were captured in the southeastern city of Mariupol in April while Brahim was captured in March in Volnovakha, south of Donetsk.

A court sentenced them in the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic” of Donetsk, a territory of eastern Ukraine that Russia controls and is unrecognized by the international community. They have one month to appeal and possibly receive a reduced sentence, the court said. Otherwise, they face death by firing squad.

Aslin, 28, Pinner, 48, and Brahim, 21, were active-duty troops serving regular contracts with the Ukrainian military; Aslin had recently re-upped his contract for a fourth year and had deep ties to the country. As regular soldiers, the men should be protected by the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.

Russia and its proxy forces in Donetsk are believed to be using the cases of Aslin and Pinner to secure the release of Russian soldiers held prisoner by Ukraine and convicted in Kyiv. Russian proxy authorities in Donetsk had pushed for the U.K. and Ukraine in the weeks ahead of the trial to negotiate a prisoner swap with Aslin and Pinner for Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician who is in Kyiv’s custody and charged with treason.

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