Ukrainian president warns Russia war could lead to famine in other nations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appears on a screen as he addresses the Italian parliament via videolink, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Rome, Italy, March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool

ROME, March 22 (Reuters) - Russia's attack on Ukraine risks causing famine in countries around the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Italian parliament on Tuesday, urging greater help to defeat the invaders.

In his latest address to Western lawmakers, Zelenskiy said via a video link that his people were clinging to survival, with the Russian military devastating Ukrainian cities and slaughtering civilians.

"For Russian troops, Ukraine is the gates of Europe, where they want to break in, but barbarism must not be allowed to pass," he said, adding that the consequences of the war were already being felt in many parts of the world.

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"The most terrible thing will be the famine that is approaching for some countries. Ukraine has always been one of the largest food exporters, but how can we sow (crops) under the strikes of Russian artillery?"

Countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen and others have come to rely on Ukrainian wheat in recent years and the war has caused wheat prices to skyrocket - rising by 50% in the last month. read more

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war, the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two, a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from "Nazis". The West calls that a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Replying to Zelenskiy, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that Ukraine had offered "heroic" resistance to the Russian invasion and promised continued support for refugees fleeing the fighting, as well as military aid.

"The arrogance of the Russian government has collided with the dignity of the Ukrainian people, who have managed to curb Moscow's expansionist aims and impose a huge cost on the invading army," Draghi told parliament.

Signalling its desire to strengthen ties with the West, Ukraine has long said it wants to join the European Union.

Draghi told lawmakers that this was a lengthy process because of the many reforms needed to integrate fully with the 27-nation bloc.

"I want to say to President Zelenskiy that Italy is at Ukraine's side in this process. Italy wants Ukraine in the European Union," Draghi said.

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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Alessandra Prentice and Crispian Balmer Editing by Keith Weir

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