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Republican senators are warning that Russia is using food manipulation as a weapon in its deadly invasion of Ukraine, and are working with Ukrainian leaders to turn attention to the deteriorating global food security crisis.
During a roundtable in the US Capitol Wednesday, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., sat down with several Ukrainian civil society leaders to discuss the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the global food supply chain.
The Republican senators, who both hail from agriculture rich states, are concerned with the recent spike in food prices and gas prices which could spell catastrophe for the US, and the rest of the world that is extremely interconnected by the food trade.
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Marshall called the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to the rise in food prices due to a higher demand and less available workers, in addition to the ongoing war in Ukraine a “perfect storm” of issues for agriculture.
“Senator Ernst and I are here today to warn everyone that today there’s food insecurity, tomorrow there can be famine. In fact, I think the stage is set for a possible another Arab Spring,” said Marshall. “Right now, Ukrainian farmers should be planning corn and sunflowers and soybeans, but instead they’re having to turn their plows into weapons.”
Ernst slammed Russia for using food as a “quiet weapon” aimed to starve civilians and force Ukraine to surrender to its army.
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“This is a food security crisis,” said Ernst. “The best and quickest way to address the food security crisis is for Ukraine to win the war. That is an absolute must, and they can win, and I know that they can win.”
Ukraine, known as the “bread basket” of the world, is one of the largest producers of wheat, sunflower oil, honey and other commodities. According to the senators, about 400 million people, including in Africa and the Middle East, depend on Ukraine and Russia for food.
Daria Kaleniuk, the co-founder and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, told reporters that her grandmother, who remains in Ukraine, is storing piles of potatoes in order to keep herself from starving amid the Russian invasion.
“Hunger is a tool Russia is using” against Ukrainians, she explained.
Maria Berlinska, a Ukrainian military volunteer and women’s rights advocate, said that Russian propaganda is an attack on “our democracies, our free people.”
Berlinska, who recently lost her brother in Ukraine from the Russian attack, said that Russia is conducting a “total genocide” of Ukrainians. She is urging the US to send more defensive weaponry to Ukraine to help their army fight back against the Russians.
Dr. Hanna Hopko, a former Ukrainian Parliament member, expressed optimism that “victory is coming to Ukraine,” because that is the only solution to the food shortage.
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She said farmers in the country are having trouble producing food because they continue to have to pull out weapons, mines and other war equipment that is being dropped into their fields. Farmer may only plant about 70% of the normal amount of crops this spring she said.
“We need actions, actions now,” Hopko stated.
Fox News’ Kelly Phares contributed to this report.