Pope urges lifting of Ukraine wheat block

Pope urges lifting of Ukraine wheat block

Pope Francis appealed to authorities on Wednesday to lift a block on wheat exports from Ukraine, saying the grain could not be used as a weapon of war. Thousands of people, particularly in the world's poorest countries, depend on wheat from Ukraine, the pope said, calling for the block to be lifted.

The United Nations, which says a global food crisis is worsening, is trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine's grain exports, though Western leaders blamed Russia for holding the world to ransom by blocking Ukrainian ports.

The pope said that the blockade of wheat exports from Ukraine is very worrying because millions of people depend on it, especially in poorer countries.

Every effort must be made to solve this problem, to guarantee the universal right to nutrition. He said not to use wheat, a basic foodstuff, as a weapon of war, because of the applause from the crowd.

The price of grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy has gone up, as well as the death and devastation sown by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The pope has condemned the invasion and the bloodshed caused by what Moscow calls a special military operation, but Wednesday was the first time that he spoke about the global food crisis it has brought.

Ukraine is trying to export its vast amount of grain by road, river and rail to help avert the crisis, but has no chance of hitting its targets unless Russia lifts a blockade of its Black Sea ports, an agriculture official said last week.