Russian Ambassador Storms Out of U.N. After Being Blamed for Food Crisis

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, abruptly left a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday when the European Council's president blamed Russia's invasion of Ukraine for causing increases in global food prices.

"Mr. Ambassador of the Russian Federation, let's be honest, the Kremlin is using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries," European Council President Charles Michel said in comments directed to Nebenzia. "Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis."

Michel said Russia had been preventing Ukraine from growing and exporting food. He also said that Russia's troops were stealing grain. Food production and distribution have been an issue for Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his attack on the country in late February. Ukrainian authorities have said that more than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in the country due to a barricade of key ports in places such as Mariupol and Odesa.

But Michel's remarks weren't limited to the food crisis. Michel also accused members of Russia's military of committing war crimes. He brought up reports of sexual violence by Russian soldiers, calling it "a tactic of torture, terror and repression." Earlier in the meeting, Nebenzia had "categorically refuted" the accusations.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia at the U.N.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia left a United Nations meeting when Russia was accused of causing the global food crisis with its war in Ukraine. In this photo, Nebenzia is seen during a U.N. Security Council ministerial debate at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on May 19, 2022. Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Image

Nebenzia stormed out as Michel was speaking, prompting the European Council's leader to tell the ambassador: "You may leave the room, maybe it's easier not to listen to the truth."

"A visibly irritated" Nebenzia told Reuters as he left the Security Council chamber that he "couldn't stay" because of "the lies that Charles Michel came here to distribute."

Last month, satellite images appeared to show bulk carrier ships bearing Russian insignias at the Crimean port of Sevastopol. CNN reported that the ships were loading what was believed to be stolen grain. Officials from the Biden administration told the network that efforts were underway to get containers into Ukraine for the country to store its grain.

On Monday, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned a weekend missile strike from Russian forces that destroyed a grain storage terminal in southern Ukraine.

"Another Russian missile strike contributing to the global food crisis," Borell tweeted. "In light of such reports, the disinformation spread by Putin deflecting blame becomes ever more cynical."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is working on what he referred to as a "package deal" that would help resume both Ukrainian and Russian food exports, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to visit Turkey on Wednesday to discuss a plan that would re-start grain exports from Ukraine.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.