Ukraine minister urges ASEAN bloc to stop Russia’s ‘hunger games’

Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tells Southeast Asian leaders ‘the worst thing that a country can do is nothing’.

Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take all measures possible to stop Russia from playing “hunger games” over a deal to allow shipments of grain to leave Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.

The deal, which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, allows for the export of food and fertilisers from several of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. It could expire on November 19 if either Russia or Ukraine object to its extension.

The United Nations says more than 10 million tonnes of grain and other produce have been exported under the deal, and had previously warned that Russia’s war on Ukraine was worsening a global food crisis and pushing tens of millions more people into hunger.

“I call on all ASEAN members to take every method possible to stop Russia from playing hunger games with the world,” Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit on Saturday.

Russia’s implementation of the deal should be scrutinised and measures should be taken to ensure Russian inspectors are not intentionally delaying shipments and forcing global prices to rise.

“It’s not enough just to keep Russia on board. It’s also important to make sure that Russian inspectors who participate in this initiative, that they act in good faith and that they inspect ships without any artificial delays,” he said from the summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Countries in Africa and Asia were suffering as a result of the delayed shipments, he said.

Kuleba said he had discussed with ASEAN leaders ways in which they could support Ukraine, and that he had conveyed to them that adopting neutrality and not condemning Russia was against their interests.

“The worst thing that a country can do is nothing,” he said.

Kuleba posted a tweet showing him shaking hands with the foreign minister of Vietnam, a country which has for decades been Russia’s staunchest ally in Southeast Asia.

Vietnam has abstained from voting at the UN on resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Vietnamese state media still refers to Moscow’s war on its neighbour by the Kremlin-approved designation of a “special military operation”.

Ukraine is joining the ASEAN summit and a parallel East Asian Summit for the first time.

Along with nine ASEAN member states, leaders of the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia are among those also attending, as is Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Kuleba said Lavrov had not requested a meeting with him during the summit, as would be the norm in international diplomacy.

“If he does we will thoroughly consider his request,” Kuleba said, adding that Russia must approach all negotiations in good faith.

“There is not a single indicator that Russia is sincerely seeking negotiations,” he said.

“Sitting down at a table for a nice picture, we’ve been there, we’ve done it, we’ve tried,” he added.

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