UN official warns Putin millions will die if Ukraine's ports remain blocked
New York (CNN Business) David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, is pleading with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen Ukraine's Black Sea ports before global calamity strikes.
"Millions of people around the world will die because these ports are being blocked," Beasley told CNN during a conference on Thursday.
Asked what he would say directly to Putin, the UN official said: "If you have any heart at all for the rest of the world, regardless of how you feel about Ukraine, you need to open up those ports."
Vital shipments of agriculture from Ukraine , known as the breadbasket of the world , are stuck in the war-torn nation because the port of Odessa and neighboring ports have been blocked by Russian officials.
Ukraine's economy faces collapseBeasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, warned that the ports must be operational within the next 60 days or Ukraine's agriculture-centric economy will implode.
"If you don't get this port issue resolved and open, Ukraine's economy completely collapses," Beasley said at the SABEW conference in New York.
In 2021, agriculture products accounted for 41% of Ukraine's total exports.
President Joe Biden addressed the global food supply shock set off by Russia's invasion of Ukraine , noting that an estimated 20 million tons of grain are stuck in silos there.
After Russia vowed to impose sanctions on 31 foreign energy companies Wednesday, a top official in Germany Thursday accused Russia of using energy as a "weapon."
Asked if Russia is similarly weaponizing food, the UN's Beasley said that would be the case if the ports are not swiftly reopened.
Not only are they defended by mines and battleships, Beasley said Ukraine's military is concerned that reopening them will allow Russia to pull a "quick move" and invade Ukraine through its ports.
While emphasizing that he's the "humanitarian guy," the UN official called for an "understanding" within the international community that they will do "what's necessary to protect" the ports from being "invaded."