Russia spins the story shamelessly that Ukraine is responsible for the world’s grain shortage. At the same time, the Russian army blocks Ukrainian seaports, steals grain from the warehouses, and burns crops.
We have previously covered the story of Aleksandr Molokov, a Russian official who was sentenced to 4 years in prison for corruption, and now has been appointed responsible for the theft of grain in the occupied southern Ukraine. Today we will talk about how Russians deliberately burn Ukrainian fields and who is doing it.
Grain is one of Ukraine’s main sources of foreign currency. In 2021, Ukraine’s export of agricultural products amounted over $12 billion, second place after the ferrous metals exports. It was expected that after the Covid-19 pandemic, Ukraine would keep increasing grain export in 2022, from 107 million metric tons of grain in 2021 and 84 million metric tons in 2020.
However, one of the Russian priorities in this war is to cause irreparable damage to the Ukrainian economy. To do this, the Russians have been bombarding industrial facilities every day and wiped out the industrial Mariupol off the face of the earth. As for agriculture, the Russians set themselves the goal of depriving Ukraine of grain. Their means are:
– Seaport blockade.
– Grain theft.
– Setting wheat fields on fire. It is used if the first two methods do not work.
Recently, the Russians have been under a lot of international pressure to stop the naval blockade because Ukraine is one of the main grain exporters in the world, and the blockade fuels grain shortage and leads to food price hikes. The crisis is particularly painful for poorer countries.
The peak of international pressure was the G20 ministerial summit that took place in Indonesia – a country where Ukraine is the second largest exporter of grain after Australia. At the summit, Sergey Lavrov, Putin’s foreign minister, was ostracized by his colleagues. The international pressure spurred negotiations in Turkey yesterday where Russia declared its readiness to unblock the ports. That is, although there is no unblocking today, the Russians are obviously calculating options for action.
The Russians also have problems with the theft of grain because of cargo monitoring. Russia tried turning off cargo ship sensors and then transferring grain to another ship. But the cases of ships going offline started to be monitored more, and purchasers of such grain began to fall under sanctions. Thus, tens of millions of tons of stolen grain are impossible to export secretly.
Meanwhile, the harvest works are ongoing in Ukraine even under gunfire. The government expects to harvest 50 million metric tons of grain in 2022, despite the Russian aggression. That is why Russia resorts to the third method, destroying Ukrainian wheat in order to leave the country without the harvest.
Gen. Sergey Surovikin is tasked with burning the Ukrainian fields. His bio can be a separate article but here is a gist of it. He was born in 1966. In 1991, he supported the Soviet junta that put Gorbachev under house arrest to preserve the collapsing USSR. Then, the battalion under his command killed three protesters during street clashes in Moscow.
In 2004, his subordinate Lt. Col. Andrey Shtakal shot himself right in Surovikin’s office. Earlier, his subordinate officers complained that they were beaten on Surovikin’s orders because of their political views.
Since he secured positions of authority of himself, Surovikin has been repeatedly involved in corruption scandals: from the theft and sale of weapons to the receipt of contracts by the business structures of his wife, a successful businesswoman in Russia.
As for his military capabilities, there are doubts about his competence, because in 2016, the grouping of the Russian army under his leadership failed to cross the Euphrates in Syria and to block the Kurds. Consequently, the Kurds kept the controlled territories, and the Russians suffered losses.
Because in Russia, social lifts reward not professional ability but loyalty to the leadership, Surovikin proved successful. The entire career of this military general is managing up to the political leadership and carrying out illegal orders. That is the reason why he is the ideal candidate to lead the destruction of Ukrainian grain if the theft or the seaport blockades are not feasible.