ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Good afternoon, everyone. We are standing here in the port of Odesa. Before Russia's full-scale invasion last February, this is where ships flowed. Every day there was a huge bustle as food went from here to feed the world.
For much of the past year, thanks to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, food flowed again from this port. In recent weeks, Russia began blocking ships from entering this port. And yesterday, Putin made the reckless, dangerous decision to end Russia's participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Vladimir Putin decided to cut off a vital lifeline to the rest of the world. And overnight – this morning, Russian forces fired drones and cruise missiles not far from where we are standing right now and, as well, across southern Ukraine.
We are again grateful to Ukraine's air defense who have demonstrated their effectiveness again and again. Now, in the last days, Putin has done what Putin does. He has offered justification for pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Justification filled with falsehood and lies. Putin has claimed that the deal prevents Russia from exporting its own grain, but Russian wheat exports are higher than ever.
Putin has claimed that Ukraine should not benefit from the Black Sea Grain Initiative because he says Ukraine is the aggressor in the war. This is obviously a ludicrous claim from the leader of a country that has invaded and committed countless acts of aggression and atrocity against its smaller neighbor.
Putin has claimed that Ukrainian exports from the Black Sea benefit the richest countries and not the poorest countries. This is another lie. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Ukraine's wheat exports through the Black Sea Green Initiative have gone to developing countries and almost 20 percent have gone to the very least developed countries places like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Somalia. And in Somalia and Ethiopia and Kenya, where much of this grain goes, that region suffered six failed rainy seasons. In Somalia, that drought has killed as many as 43,000 people last year alone. So this is a life and death decision that Putin has made.
This decision also, of course, is a blow to Ukraine's economy. Already, globally, we see that one in five Africans today is going hungry. And even though Russia only formally ended its participation yesterday, we already see grain and oil prices increase today, globally.
Every blocked ship, every spike in global grain prices, every wasted harvest means another parent who can't feed a child. I have traveled to Kenya and seen mothers nursing newborns suffering from acute malnutrition. I have talked to families in Lebanon, who could no longer afford to feed their families because of the increase in food and fuel prices. And in Somalia, there are a growing number of makeshift graves along the side of the road because of the loss of life, caused by the combination of drought, and unaffordable food.
Vladimir Putin may be willing to inflict this humanitarian pain on innocents but the United States is not. Today, I am pleased to announce an additional $250 million in new funding for AGRI-Ukraine. AGRI-Ukraine is USAID’s flagship Ukrainian agricultural initiative. AGRI-Ukraine, I launched one year ago.
With these new funds, we will build on the work that we have been doing in partnership with the Ukrainian government, with the transport and logistic industry, and with Ukrainian farmers. We will work to create and to expand alternative export routes for Ukrainian farmers. We will help modernize Ukraine's border crossings. We will upgrade critical infrastructure for rail and road transportation. We will expand access to train car parts and railway assembly supplies and we will continue to work with private companies like Grain Alliance, Kernel and Nibulon to help the port's along the Danube River increase their export capacity.
We will provide additional grain elevators, loading equipment and scales and lab testing materials to help speed the process of getting grain onto transport. These measures are critical, but they will take time to pay full dividends. And to reiterate what Deputy Prime Minister [Oleksandr] Kubrakov has said – nothing can compensate for the loss of the Black Sea ports. So we will extend our work helping support Ukrainian farmers.
We have a collective interest in ensuring that Ukrainian farmers stay in business. We are providing resources to help them store their harvests that they can't sell. We are helping them protect their grain from pests and rot. And along with AGRI-Ukraine partners like Bayer and Corteva Agriscience, we are providing financing as well as donating seeds and fertilizer. These additional resources should help them afford to be able to plant new crops, even if their previous harvests haven't yet sold.
USAID’s funding with today's announcement will reach $350 million. And to be clear, these investments do two things. Yes they help farmers and the agricultural sector deal with the urgent implications of Putin's aggression. But these investments are investments, as well, in Ukraine's long term future – in the breadbasket that will help feed hungry communities around the world for generations to come.
Today, we have announced an investment of $250 million in that prosperous, stable sovereign future. Today, here in the Port of Odesa, I am calling, as well, on other governments, philanthropies, the private sector and beyond, to match the American contribution to raise an additional $250 million to help further protect farmers under attack and to invest in an infrastructure and an economy that is going to serve the Ukrainian people and the world for a very long time to come.
These investments are part of a broader set of investments that the United States and our partners are making in order to not only help Ukraine win the war on the battlefields, but at the very time they do that, to also build a more resilient future.
Thank you so much.
QUESTION: [off mic] Please clarify the period of financing of a recovery? Is it five years? The 250 million?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I don't think we can yet speculate as to how long it will take to expend such a significant investment as a quarter of a billion dollars. But we recognize the urgency of the needs.
We have seen what the Ukrainian agricultural sector and the government has achieved even just in the last year. The amount of commodities that are moving and being exported via the Danube have gone up ten times since Russia's full-scale invasion, and our Ukrainian partners are very clear that with more resources, more dredging, more transhipment, equipment, and adjustments, they can diversify from the Black Sea ports even more. So we will move responsibly and urgently to invest these resources in that more resilient diversified economy.
QUESTION: Hi, Matthew Luxmoore from the Wall Street Journal. Can you say anything about the status of negotiations of other potential partners and private companies, where that's out at the moment and maybe what they've pledged?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: If I may, I'm going to ask, as well, Deputy Prime Minister Kubrakov to come and respond, as well, but I will respond first.
Right now the United States’ emphasis is on mobilizing global pressure on the Russian Federation to reverse its decision. When the Russian Federation agreed to be part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative a year ago and when it has agreed to extend the Initiative in the past, it is clear that Moscow has acted largely because of the pressure from countries in the Global South that are benefiting from lower food prices and from Ukrainian exports.
Russia has invested a lot of money in selling its false narrative about the war in Ukraine in the Global South. In my travels, I can say in my experience, almost nobody is buying it. But given the human consequences in places like the Horn of Africa of yesterday's decision, the costs for Putin, in sub-Saharan Africa, of those consequences being lived by the people of those countries will be severe.
So we are in dialogue with, of course, our Ukrainian partners, with the United Nations, with Türkiye, which helped engineer the Black Sea Green Initiative and it will be key that countries that benefit from lower food prices and receive Ukrainian wheat, raise their voices and join us in this diplomacy.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OLEKSANDR KUBRAKOV: Thank you very much for the question on negotiations about what's happening right now. Yesterday, as you know, we had a call of our President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and Secretary General [António] Gutierrez. They discussed it, definitely we need to continue to maintain Black Sea Grain Initiative. I hope that very soon we will have a call between another side of this initiative – between Ukraine and Türkiye, and Türkiye and the United Nations, and after these consultations we will understand what we will do together with partners.
But again, I'd like to emphasize, I said it in my statements, that we are ready for plan B. We are ready to operate, if the United Nations and Türkiye will do similar. We had this experience in November, we operated during two days [in] only three sides. It was Ukraine, the United Nations, and Türkiye. And probably it was two days of the most fastest inspections. We had 80 vessels inspected and we proved that all problems which we have before and after, they were absolutely artificial and they were made by Russians. Thank you.