British warships could be sent to protect freighters carrying Ukrainian grain amid fears of food shortages

Talks being held about ‘alliance of the willing’ in plan to lift Russian blockade

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 24 May 2022 17:49 BST
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The British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth
The British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (Getty)

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The Royal Navy could be sent to the Black Sea unders plans to create a “protective corridor” to allow ships carrying Ukrainian grain to leave the country.

The UK is in talks with allies including Lithuania about the formation of an “alliance of the willing” to help lift the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports. It is thought that Egypt and other countries reliant on Ukrainian produce could also help.

If this proved possible, the waters near the Ukrainian coast would need to be de-mined before exports could resume.

Millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain which would usually be shipped around the world remain in silos across the country, sparking fears the global food crisis could worsen. Concern has also grown due to lower than expected crop yields in nations such as India.

The Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who met his British counterpart Liz Truss in London earlier this week, stressed that Ukraine must be allowed to export its grain to ease food insecurity.

“Russian blockade of Odesa can and has to be removed. Ukraine should be allowed to feed the world,” he said on Monday.

On Tuesday, the British transport secretary Grant Shapps expressed similar concerns.

"We’re looking at all the different options … there are lots of different potential ways to get grain and other goods out of the country," he said.

"It’s absolutely essential that we do, otherwise there could be a lot of hunger and [even] famine."

Last week, David Beasley, the director of the UN World Food Programme, urged Russian president Vladimir Putin to lift his naval blockade “so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine”.

Russia, however, has indicated that it will not consider taking this step unless western sanctions against it were reviewed.

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