Ukraine sets out grain plan for poor countries

STORY: Ukraine wants to feed at least 5 million people facing severe food shortages by the end of next spring.

That was the message from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the Group of 20 nations on Tuesday (November 15) as he set out a new initiative, though he pointedly seemed to exclude Russia:

"I also call on all countries – and in particular your countries, dear G19 leaders – to join our initiative to help the poorest with food. We have already launched the initiative - "Grain From Ukraine"."

Ukraine is one of the world's biggest exporters of food, and Russia's blockade of its Black Sea ports in February contributed to a global food crisis.

A U.N.-driven deal earlier this year eased Russia's blockade and Zelenskiy said it has helped Ukraine export more than 10 million tonnes of food products since July.

Zelenskiy said the agreement should be extended indefinitely - and include two more ports.

The deal is due to expire on November 19th and talks are underway to extend it.

But that may depend on Russian demands being met

It has long complained of barriers against its farm exports, even though they are not directly targeted by Western sanctions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.N. had told him of written U.S. and EU promises to remove obstacles to the export of Russian grain and fertilisers.

"The second part of the deal was the removal of obstacles to the export of Russian grain, and here we must say 'thank you' to the U.N. Secretariat and the Secretary-General personally. They are trying their best, but five months have passed and no practical results have been achieved."

Discussions to extend the grain deal are ongoing.