Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that Britain wanted to help demining operations off the southern coast of Ukraine, while London was considering providing insurance coverage for ships carrying millions of tonnes of grain trapped in the country.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and the blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea have prevented Ukraine, traditionally one of the world’s largest grain exporters, from exporting more than 20 million tonnes of grain stored in silos.
The negative situation that has been created has caused prices to rise to record levels, with the food crisis threatening tens of millions of people.
Officials in the West estimate that the food crisis could last for two years.
Turkey is seeking to mediate talks between the UN, Ukraine and Russia on setting up a possible Black Sea security corridor, but Moscow wants some sanctions lifted in advance to serve Russian grain and oil exports.
“There is serious work to be done. We are working with the Turks and other European friends and allies to see what we can do,” Johnson told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Rwanda for the Commonwealth conference.
The London insurance market has rated the whole area around Ukraine as a high-risk area, increasing the cost of freight rates.
Johnson said Britain was considering all options available when asked if the British government could provide guarantees for the safety of merchant shipping in the Black Sea region.
“What the UK has to offer, above all, is its experience in ship insurance, but also its extensive experience in transporting goods to disputed sea areas,” he said.
Asked if Britain was ready to assist Ukraine in demining the area, Johnson said: “Yes, I do not want to go into technical or military details, but you can tell by what we have already done to provide equipment to Ukrainians in order to protect themselves and we can certainly take them to a technical level, helping to demining Odessa. ”
Any demining effort will be the largest since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and any organized offshore demining off the coast of Ukraine will take several months.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Trass said in a separate statement on Thursday that immediate action was needed within the next month, before the next harvest, in order to maintain the supply chain’s functionality.