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War in Ukraine: “The Russians steal the wheat from the silos to take it home”, famine is looming


22 million tons of cereals are blocked while 50 million tons will arrive at the next harvest. Enough to cause chaos, as much as war.

You don’t have to drive long on the four-lane road leading east to see the damage. Barely out of the capital, appear the first buildings burned in the fierce fighting which was to allow, four months ago, the Russian expeditionary force to take kyiv. They were prevented by fierce resistance from Ukrainian soldiers.

Sheds and hypermarkets are no more than heaps of crumpled sheets destroyed by shells. “The Russian tanks even crossed a cemetery to reach their positions”, breath, outraged, Nadia, my translator. Most gas stations burned down. A drug factory is blackened by flames. Its stocks of pills, vials, injections gone up in smoke are now sorely lacking on the front. “In this area, there were a hundred deaths”loose Nadia, her face closed.

Further on, you have to make a detour to reach Makariv. The interchange is nothing more than a heap of concrete. The Ukrainians destroyed it to slow down the progress of Russian armor. On the narrow bridge that spans the Tétériv River, workers are repairing the deck with their construction machinery. It is the inhabitants who have contributed to pay for the work.

The golden dome of a Russian Orthodox church was damaged by gunfire. Police station, post office and shops burned down. In the combat posts at the exit of Makariv, National Guard soldiers are armed with Kalashnikovs. Even if the front has moved to the east, the general staff does not rule out the possibility of a new Russian offensive coming from the north.

Around, the immense fields of cereals which make Ukraine the breadbasket of Europe by being the 4th world exporter of wheat. Thanks to the Chernozem, the famous black earth of the country, one of the most fertile soils on the planet.

A tractor hit a mine three days ago

The small road winds between plots of several dozen hectares sown with corn and sunflower, the oil of which has become rare and expensive in our supermarkets. An armored carcass rusts on an embankment. Peasants remove the rubble from their destroyed houses.

The factory that used to dry the wheat is half collapsed. The Svitanok farm was not spared. Its owner is in the yard. “We were located in the middle of the lines”, says Yvan Mischchenko. At 66, he remained hidden in the damp straw-strewn basement of his ruined hovel, next to his flowering rose bushes. He held on thanks to his jars of mushrooms and tin cans.

Animal carcasses litter the destroyed enclosures. “I had 48 cows. Half are dead, and three-quarters of my pigs. Why is Putin making war on us? he wonders. Khrushchev and Brezhnev were indeed Ukrainians”. His current problem is the cereals from the previous harvest, which he still has on his hands. “Because of the war, one hundred tons are stored here. Fifty of wheat. The rest is millet and barley,” he said in front of a pile of grain stored on a tarpaulin stretched in a barn.

Before sowing, he combed through his 120 hectares with his son Roman. “We took out pieces of rockets, shrapnel,” he curses, pointing to a small pile of khaki scrap metal. “I believe that we have nothing left, he adds. But three days ago a tractor hit a mine near here”. Yvan was able to sow, but he is worried about selling the next harvest.

Putin on the move

The silos are full because of the maritime blockade of the Black Sea ordered by Putin. Its navy prevents bulk carriers from coming to load at the port of Odessa, even if it means causing an unprecedented food crisis. 100 million Egyptians risk starvation without Russian and Ukrainian wheat.

Food riots are to be expected, with its migratory consequences for Europe, but also in the Maghreb, and in Nigeria, a behemoth of 215 million inhabitants. “22 million tons of cereals are blocked because of the Russians, who use wheat as a weapon”, blows, in his kyiv office, Leonid Kazachenko, president of the Ukrainian agricultural confederation.

And 50 million will arrive at the next harvest. “We export it by train via Poland, but it’s not enough. The gauge of the tracks is different. The bogies of each wagon have to be changed, which are lifted with a crane”. On the Romanian side, Putin had the Zatoka railway bridge bombed twice, to prevent the evacuation of cereals to the port of Constanta.

“There too, we are building new roads. Meanwhile, the Russians are stealing wheat from the silos in the regions they control, to take it home”, says Leonid Kazachenko. Before adding: “The grain blockade risks plunging entire continents into chaos. As much as the war itself.”

Zelensky on the front in Mykolaiv

Volodymyr Zelensky went on Saturday, June 18, to the front near Mykolaiv, a strategic city in southern Ukraine where the Russian advance towards Odessa was stopped at the start of the war. Where the Ukrainian army has been leading a counter-offensive for several days.

The Ukrainian president shared selfies taken with soldiers on his Telegram account: “Our brave men. Each one of them gives their all, he commented. We will definitely hold on! We will definitely win!”

The Russian army had arrived at the gates of Mykolaiv but had come up against the fierce resistance of the Ukrainian forces and was pushed back about thirty kilometers, without ceasing to bombard the city.

“The president inspected the headquarters of the Mykolaiv regional administration which had been destroyed by a missile strike”the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement.

Volodymyr Zelensky also visited a hospital in Mykolaiv and awarded the Medal of Courage to the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, and to the governor of the region, Vitaly Kim.

At least five civilians were killed and 12 others were injured on Saturday, June 18, in Ukrainian bombardments in Donetsk, in the separatist east of Ukraine. Furthermore, the Ukrainian authorities have reported “fierce battles” in the villages located near the locality of Severodonetsk.