Proxy war in Ukraine raises concerns of global food insecurity, underlines need for talks 

While Ukraine refuses to engage in talks, Russian forces scored a major victory in Donbass following the surrender of hundreds of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant earlier this week

May 19, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Russia-Ukraine Conflict
(Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense/TASS)

The fall of Mariupol earlier this week and Ukraine’s renewed pledge to take back all the territory that has fallen to Russian control has increased the fear of a “protracted” proxy war in the region and raised global concerns of worsening food insecurity.  

In an address to the nation on Wednesday, May 18, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that his country will retake all the cities lost to Russia by “driving out occupiers.” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov expressed fear that Russia is entering a “protracted phase” in its war in Ukraine as it wants to defend its positions in the south and gain full control over the Donbass region.   

Despite acknowledging the need for talks in the past, both countries confirmed on Thursday that the talks have officially stalled. Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko claimed that Ukrainians have “practically withdrawn from the negotiation process.” On the other hand, Russia has accused the Ukrainian side of going cold on the talks following a push from the West which is using Ukraine to settle its own score with Russia. 

Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyk confirmed that talks with Russia are on hold and that talks at this moment will achieve nothing. 

Mariupol falls 

Meanwhile, Russia has taken full control over the port city of Mariupol in the Donbass region after hundreds of Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the last battle ground of the Azovstal steel plant. The fight which went on for close to three months was considered the most significant battle.  

As per claims made by the Russians, around 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers including hundreds of members of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion, have surrendered since Monday. According to Tass, all of these Ukrainian fighters have been sent to a detention facility in territory controlled by Russia. 

Russian sources claimed that some of these detainees will be tried for war crimes as they are accused of using civilians as human shields by forcefully keeping them in the steel plant.

“The people who were there at Azovstal, who were simply betrayed by their own leadership in Kiev, because they used them as a tool for blackmail for everyone else. Purposefully, completely thoughtlessly and callously,” claimed Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Wednesday.  

War and sanctions are deepening the global food crisis

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his apprehension that the war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed by the West on Russia “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine, in a crisis that could last for years.” 

The prices of food have been rising throughout the world since the beginning of the war. According to the UN, there are more than 36 countries in the world, including the poorest of the poor, who count on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports. War and sanctions have prevented a large number of these countries from procuring enough wheat supplies which may cause more price rise globally. 

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, John Ross of the No Cold War platform noted that by sanctioning Russia, the US and its allies have sanctioned the entire world. He claimed that if the sanctions continue and prices keep rising, the living standards of billions of people will go down and “this is going to become a life threatening situation for some hundreds of millions of people in the Global South.” He called the US sanctions on Russia “reckless and unilateral” and said that they impose the “cost of the war on populations of the world.”   

Asking the countries to start the talks, Guterres emphasized that “the complex security, economic and financial implications [of the war and sanctions] require goodwill on all sides.”  

Russia launched its “special operations” in Ukraine on February 24 claiming to “denazify” and “demilitarize” it. Russia accused Ukraine of failing to implement the Minsk agreement and committing atrocities against the people of Donbass region. Russia has accused the West and NATO of threatening its security by trying to expand its security alliance to include Ukraine and deploy its weapons in the country.    

Following the Russian operation inside Ukraine, the US, EU and their allies imposed a series of sanctions on Russia. The sanctions include economic restrictions on Russia’s central banks and private capital, along with bans on import of Russian oil and gas. The West has also imposed a ban on Russian state-affiliated media and is encouraging its cultural and political boycott across the world.