UNITED NATIONS (TBEN) — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about exporting Russian fertilizer through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to deal with a growing global food crisis that threatens multiple famines.
The UN chief said they also discussed security at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, where he said bombings had stopped in the past three days, and about prisoners of war he would like to see exchanged.
Guterres told a news conference that Putin said a fact-finding mission he has appointed at the request of Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at the Olenivka prison in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine on July 29 will be able to go there “on whatever date.” way we choose, and that is a very important aspect.” The warring countries accuse each other of carrying out the attack in which separatist authorities and Russian officials said 53 Ukrainian POWs were killed and 75 injured.
Guterres said the call to Putin followed his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Lviv on Aug. 18, and regular calls to the head of Zelenskyy’s office, Andriy Yermak.
Putin will not attend next week’s annual meeting of world leaders at the UN General Assembly, which Guterres says is taking place “at a time of great peril”.
“Our world is ravaged by war, ravaged by climate chaos, scarred by hatred and shamed by poverty, hunger and inequality,” the secretary-general said.
The war in Ukraine is not only devastating the country but also dragging the global economy down, Guterres said, and hopes for a peace deal are “minimal”. soon.”
Despite the July 22 deal to ship Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports and bring Russian food and fertilizers to world markets, Guterres said, “there is a risk of multiple famines this year.”
The secretary-general said high fertilizer prices have already reduced the planting of food crops. That is why it is crucial to increase Russia’s exports of ammonia – a key ingredient of fertilizers – and why discussions are underway about its possible shipment through the Black Sea ports currently used to ship grain from Ukraine.
UN trade chief Rebeca Grynspan, who leads the team trying to facilitate unfettered global access to Russian food and fertilizers, told reporters on Tuesday that Russia reported a 12% increase in food exports from June to July, but fertilizer exports is still lower despite being covered by the contract, with insurance, financing and shipping still having issues.
Guterres said he discussed the “dramatic situation in fertilizers” and the obstacles to sending ammonia from Russia with Putin.
“We risk a shortage in the fertilizer market,” said the UN chief. “We have news from different parts of the world that the built-up areas are much smaller than in the previous cycle, putting us at risk of real food shortages in 2022.”
“So removing the obstacles that still exist with regard to Russian fertilizer exports is absolutely essential at this point,” he said.
Grynspan, head of the UN conference on trade and development, said fertilizer is needed by October and November at the latest for the Northern Hemisphere planting season.
On the issue of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine, the largest in Europe, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said on Monday that he has begun consultations with Ukraine and Russia over its call for a “nuclear safety and protection zone”. around the facility, and the two sides seem to be interested.
Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the two sides appear to be interested.
He made the proposal last week after leading a team of inspectors to the nuclear power plant and leaving two of them there to monitor its safety. The factory is occupied by Russian troops but has been managed by Ukrainian workers since the beginning of the war.
The Zaporizhzhia plant was reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid over the weekend, allowing engineers to shut down the last operational reactor in a bid to avert disaster as fighting raged in the area.
Guterres said, according to his latest information, that electricity will be provided to ensure the cooling of the reactors and other electricity needed.
“We haven’t been bombed for three days now,” he said. “I hope that these kinds of attacks will stop and I hope that the safety of the nuclear power plant will be fully maintained at all costs and fully respected by the parties.”