German minister calls Russian grain theft in Ukraine ‘repugnant’

Germany's agriculture minister on Friday criticised grain theft by Russia in eastern Ukraine, as G7 countries met to discuss the impact of the war on the global food supply. 

Germany's Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Ozdemir (R) and Ukraine's Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Mykola Solskyi (L) give a press statement in front of Schloss Hohenheim palace, venue of the G7 Agriculture ministers' meeting in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on May 13th.
Germany's Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Oezdemir (R) and Ukraine's Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Mykola Solskyi (L) give a press statement in front of Schloss Hohenheim palace, venue of the G7 Agriculture ministers' meeting in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on May 13th. Photo: Thomas NIEDERMÜLLER / AFP

“This is an especially repugnant form of war that Russia is leading,” Cem Oezdemir said at the start of a meeting in Stuttgart with colleagues from G7 countries, Ukraine, the European Union, the OECD and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

Russia was “stealing, robbing, taking for itself grain from eastern Ukraine,” Oezdemir said, describing it as an “economic war”.

Before the invasion, Ukraine was seen as the world’s bread basket, exporting 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports – 12 percent of the planet’s wheat, 15 percent of its corn and half of its sunflower oil.

READ ALSO: Why are people in Germany clearing out supermarket shelves? 

But with the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and others cut off from the world by Russian warships, the supply can only travel on congested land routes that are much less efficient.

“Ukraine is in a very difficult situation with regard to grain exports,” agriculture minister Mykola Solsky said ahead of the meeting.

The Russian occupation in the fertile eastern regions of the country would also have an impact on this year’s crop.

“We cannot get away from the fact that the harvest will be smaller than last year,” Solsky said.

Discussions had already begun on how to transport more grain out of Ukraine “over land, by train and along the Danube”, which flows from Germany to Ukraine, to “rescue” the produce stuck in the country, Oezdemir said.

Russia ‘responsible for global food supply crunch’

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that Moscow bore a “responsibility” for disruptions in the global food supply due to its invasion of Ukraine.

“The chancellor and the Russian president also spoke about the global food situation which is particularly strained due to Russia’s war of aggression,” Scholz’s office said in a statement after a 75-minute call between the leaders.

 “The chancellor reminded him that Russia bears a particular responsibility here.”

Scholz said the conversation with Putin Friday morning, following a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, was focused on “the war in Ukraine and efforts to end it”.

He urged Putin “given the gravity of the military situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, especially in Mariupol” to bring about a “ceasefire as soon as possible to improve the humanitarian situation and make progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict”.

Scholz also “firmly rejected” Moscow’s accusation “that Nazism is widespread in Ukraine”.

The question of food security was already on the agenda for the G7 meeting of foreign ministers, which began Thursday in the northern German resort of Wangels.

“We as the strongest industrialised democracies have a special responsibility” to help poorer nations weather the food and energy squeezes caused by the war, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

The other members of the group are Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States.

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German ex-Chancellor Schröder leaves Rosneft board

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder will leave the board of directors of Russian oil giant Rosneft, the company said on Friday, following public pressure.

German ex-Chancellor Schröder leaves Rosneft board

Rosneft said that Schröder and Nord Stream 2 CEO Matthias Warnig informed the company that it was “impossible to extend their powers on the board of directors” a day after Germany stripped Schröder of official perks over ties with Russia.

Rosneft praised their “strategic vision” and “significant contribution to the international business of the company”.

“Their role in the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in Russia and Germany, aimed at increasing the efficiency of the Germany economy and its industry and the well-being of its citizens, is invaluable,” Rosneft added.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over links to Russia

Schröder, who was Germany’s leader from 1998 to 2005, had been slammed for refusing to quit his posts with Russian energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The German Bundestag’s decision to strip Schröder of an office and paid staff on Thursday came after a long effort to get him to turn his back on President Vladimir Putin. 

“The coalition parliamentary groups have drawn consequences from the behaviour of former chancellor and lobbyist Gerhard Schröder in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the parliament decided.

“The office of the former chancellor shall be suspended,” it said, noting that Schröder “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

The cost of Schröder’s office and employees was estimated to cost taxpayers around €400,000 per year. 

EU lawmakers separately called in a non-binding resolution on the bloc to slap sanctions on Schröder and other Europeans who refuse to give up lucrative board seats at Russian companies.

Schröder, 78, is due to join the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in June.