Famine Will Force West To Lift Sanctions, Russian State TV Host Claims

A Russian state TV host and mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin has claimed the West will eventually be forced to lift sanctions imposed on Russia amid a global famine threat.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian state-controlled media outlet RT, made the remarks during this year's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Simonyan, who moderated this year's forum, said she heard from people several times in Moscow that: "All our hope is in the famine."

"Here is what it means. It means that the famine will start now and they will lift the sanctions and be friends with us, because they will realize that it's necessary," Simonyan continued.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Margarita Simonyan
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) looks at RT television company Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan (L) during the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum SPIEF 2022, JUNE 17:,2022, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Simonyan claimed that the West will eventually be forced to lift sanctions imposed on Russia amid a global famine threat. Contributor/Getty Images

Western leaders imposed severe sanctions on Russia in response to Putin's Ukraine invasion, which began on February 24.

The U.S., for example, is banning all imports of Russian oil and gas, while the U.K. is phasing out imports of Russian oil by end of the year. Germany has halted plans to open the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, and the European Union has pledged to phase out imports of coal from Russia by August.

The widespread sanctions have also hit prominent individuals, businesses and banks, while big names such as McDonald's, Starbucks and Coca-Cola have completely withdrawn from Russia as an act of protest against Putin's war.

Russia, meanwhile, has been accused of blocking Ukraine's ports and exacerbating a global food crisis. According to the United Nations, the food crisis is being driven to famine levels by the war in Ukraine and the resulting lack of grain exports, driven partly by the Black Sea blockade and Russia's seizure of farmland in Ukraine.

Putin has promised to lift the blockade, if western sanctions imposed in response to what he calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine are removed.

"Most important of all, we need to end the war in Ukraine," António Guterres, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, told the Security Council on May 19, noting that food distribution is an issue.

Sara Menker, founder and chief executive officer of Gro Intelligence, said that prior to the war, Russia and Ukraine provided nearly a third of the world's wheat exports, and are among the top five global exporters of corn. All Ukrainian ports remain closed amid the ongoing conflict.

A representative of Ukraine told the Security Council that Putin's war threatens some 400 million people globally who rely on Ukrainian grain exports, which have almost stopped due to blockages of Ukrainian seaports. Russia is also seizing Ukrainian grain for its own consumption or to illegally sell it on international markets, he said.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles has accused Putin of deliberately attempting to "create hunger in the world in order to put pressure... on the EU."

"This is a real war crime. If you are using hunger as a weapon of war—this has a name," he said in Luxembourg after arriving for a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers.

Michael McFaul, Barack Obama's former ambassador to Russia, also hit out at Simonyan for the comments she made during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"'Let's starve them until they agree to be our friends' Such a pleasant person. And then Russians wonder why no one respects them!" he tweeted.