EU's von der Leyen says Russia is using food supplies as a weapon

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DAVOS/BRUSSELS, May 24 (Reuters) - Russia is using food supplies as a weapon with global repercussions, acting the same way it does in the energy sector, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, she said "global cooperation" was the "antidote to Russia's blackmail."

"In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin's army is confiscating grain stocks and machinery (...) And Russian warships in the Black Sea are blockading Ukrainian ships full of wheat and sunflower seeds," von der Leyen added.

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The EU has pledged to open "solidarity channels" with Ukraine - alternative logistics routes to help the country export grain. The bloc's agriculture policy chief on Tuesday said the idea had received full support from EU countries' agriculture ministers at a meeting in Brussels.

Imagen de archivo de un tractor distribuyendo fertilizante en un trigal cercano a la localidad de Yakovlivka, Ucrania. 5 abril 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

"The neighboring countries are doing what they can and I want to thank them," Janusz Wojciechowski told a news conference after the meeting, adding that EU countries bordering Ukraine were working to enable grain exports but facing challenges with infrastructure such as railways.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine - and the West's attempt to isolate Moscow as punishment - have sent the price of grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy soaring.

The Kremlin said on Monday that it was the West that was responsible for the global food crisis by imposing the severest sanctions in modern history on Russia over the war in Ukraine. read more

The European Commission has said Europe's own food supply is not at risk from the fallout of the war, given the EU's own production, but it expects the drop in Ukraine's exports of maize, wheat, oil and rapeseed to still hit food and animal feed prices in the EU, putting pressure on the bloc's farmers.

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten in Davos and Kate Abnett in Brussels Editing by Bart Meijer, Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis

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