“We saw a systematic approach to the way that food was being weaponised within the conflict,” said Catriona Murdoch, the lead of the GRC’s Starvation Mobile Justice Team.

“We’ve not seen anything as sophisticated as this in terms of the ability to transfer millions of tons of grain, and reroute that through occupied areas into Russia and the way that they have wielded that in terms of political pressure.” 

An estimated $1 billion worth of grain has been pillaged from Ukraine, the report said.

The report analysed open sources comprising information including photographs, videos, public statements by officials, and other digital data. 

It found that upon invasion, Russia seized grain facilities from Ukrainian corporations and private farmers, consolidating control through the Russian-affiliated civilian administration of these facilities.

The Kremlin then invested in networks to transport the grain, including roads, rail and ports. 

Global ‘havoc’ on food supplies

The report found that three 170-metre grain carrier ships were pre-purchased by a Russian defence contractor before the war, which GRC said speaks to pre-planning “on an unprecedented scale”. 

Ms Murdoch said that it was part of a “concerted plan” to both weaken the livelihoods of many Ukrainians and place “political pressure” on world leaders in relation to food shortages in vulnerable countries, like those in the Horn of Africa. 

Russian blockades of Black Sea ports have left global supplies insecure, reducing Ukraine’s ability to export grain and foodstuff to those most vulnerable. 

The Black Sea Grain Initiative marked an attempt to reintroduce exports from Ukraine to the global market, but it expired in July 2023 after Russia unilaterally refused to extend its term. 

“It has given Russia a real trump card in terms of being able to bring people to the negotiating table,” Ms Murdoch said, explaining the link to the Black Sea initiative. 

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