The Russians are at it again with the ransacking, thievery, and destruction. Ukrainian Human Rights Chief Lyudmyla Denisova reported last Monday that the Russian forces are stealing and destroying farm equipment and grain from Ukrainian farmers in what is likely to cause famine in Ukraine and other parts of the world.  There are numerous accounts of Russian forces stealing farm equipment and grain in Ukraine since the start of the war. However, recent reports suggest that the attacks might be coordinated.

Agriculture Deputy Minister Taras Vysotskiy stated on Ukrainian national TV that some 1.5 million tons of grain stored in occupied territories were stolen by Russian forces. Similarly, Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi reported that Russian thievery of grain was prominent and had increased in the past two weeks.

“I personally hear this from many silo owners in the occupied territory. This is outright robbery. And this is happening everywhere in occupied territory,” Solskyi said. “There will soon be a wheat harvest in the south. But farmers in this situation may well say: ‘Here are the keys to the tractor – go collect it yourself, if you want,'” he added.

A farm warehouse destroyed in Ukraine (Iuliia Mendel). Source: https://twitter.com/IuliiaMendel/status/1520735124853346304https://twitter.com/IuliiaMendel/status/1520735124853346304
A farm warehouse destroyed in Ukraine (Iuliia Mende/Twitter)

For context regarding why this is important, wheat is the second most-produced grain in the world next to corn. Both Russia and Ukraine are top exporters of wheat, with Russia being the world’s top exporter and Ukraine at the 5th or 6th, accounting for 7% of global sales in 2019. Together, Ukraine and Russia produce 25.4% of the world’s wheat.  Some part of Putin’s war calculus was the prospect of absorbing Ukraine to eliminate a competitor in grain exports or to destroy it as a competitor altogether.

Economically, Russians stealing farm equipment and destroying crops and grain leads to Ukraine not having anything to export, affecting not just revenue to the country but also to feed their population. More so, their port cities are currently besieged, so it would be hard to transport wheat to other countries. Most importantly, if Russians continue to steal and destroy these crops, Ukrainians can possibly have a food shortage as these grains and crops are also eaten domestically.

This fatally undermines Kremlin propaganda at the beginning of the war that Russia was saving their Ukrainian brothers and sisters from the Nazi government of President Zelensky. Russia expected to be able to take the entire country intact in a few days, now that the war is stretching into its second month, Russian strategic aims have changed as well to destroying Ukraine’s economy of energy exports and agriculture to impoverish and starve the population into submission.  This signals that the Russians are moving away from a limited war strategy to one of total war seeking to reduce Ukraine to rubble.  If Putin cannot take all of Ukraine in one piece, it will then leave Ukraine shattered into pieces.