Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Russia’s Attacks on Ukrainian Ports

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 26, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, ASG Khiari, for your very sobering briefing.

Earlier this morning, Russia wasted this Council’s time with another sham meeting. And this one was cruelly ironic given that Russian forces destroyed Odesa’s historic Transfiguration Cathedral just this week with a targeted Russian missile.

According to UNESCO, roughly 270 cultural sites have been damaged since President Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The loss of Ukrainian cultural heritage is staggering and it is truly shameful. And the attack on the historic Transfiguration Cathedral was just one of the many attacks Russia has carried out in the Odesa region this week.

The Kremlin’s campaign of brutality has been relentless. And the Ukrainian people are paying a heavy price. After Russia’s July 19 strike, Odesa’s city government reported that one person died and eight people were injured. And this past Saturday, Russia’s attacks on Odesa killed one person and injured 22 others. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those killed and injured. To the communities that have been rocketed by Russian missiles and drones. To the children who have endured so much needless suffering and violence.

And of course, we all know Russia’s attacks have global consequences. These are attacks on the world’s food supply – on all of those facing hunger, malnutrition, and famine, especially in parts of the world that can least afford it.

Over the past week, the Russian military has bombarded Odesa and other port cities. One attack destroyed 60,000 tons of grain, which according to the World Food Program is enough to feed more than 270,000 people for a year. And on July 23 and 24, Russia struck Ukrainian ports on the Danube destroying grain storage infrastructure at the port of Reni just across the river from Romania. Russia’s attacks on Chornomorsk a port that facilitates nearly 70 percent of Ukrainian wheat exports to developing countries caused damage that experts say will take at least a year to repair.

Colleagues, Russia is hell-bent on preventing Ukrainian grain from reaching global markets, which is why it unilaterally suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Even though Russia never fully implemented the Black Sea Grain Initiative, this arrangement helped get food to those in need.

And as the Secretary-General has said, it has been a “beacon of hope.” And we encourage him to continue his efforts to find a path forward to resume the Initiative. This Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye, lowered food prices for all. It has been critical to the World Food Program’s humanitarian work in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen. And the Black Sea Grain Initiative disproportionally benefited the developing world. And as Mr. Khiari said, it was a lifeline to many.

Russia will tell you otherwise. It will say that only Western countries benefited from this arrangement. But the facts are not on Russia’s side. And they know it. Which is why they have chosen not to speak in the Chamber today. Another temper-tantrum for not getting their way.

According to the UN, nearly two-thirds of the wheat exported through this arrangement went to developing countries. Global food prices spiked to near record highs after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. They rose again after Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And this past Monday, wheat prices spiked in response to Russia’s missile barrage against Odesa.

The world is paying the price for Russia’s barbaric attacks. So let’s not “both sides” this issue. Only one country – one country – is weaponizing food. Only one country is cynically using its grain as leverage in order to secure support from other countries. And only one country is responsible for the suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

We must all urge Russia to cease its attacks on global food security – and extend, expand, and fully implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative. And we must continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked, illegal war against Ukraine.

This Council cannot be silent. It is time to act. And this is a pressing matter of international peace and security. The Ukrainian people need peace. The world needs peace. President Putin: It is far past time for you to silence your guns. Withdraw your troops. And end your brutal aggression.

Thank you, Madam President.