Cargo ships carrying Ukraine grain were anchored as they waited in line for the inspection on the Marmara Sea in Turkey on October 22. File Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE
Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday announced the Grain from Ukraine initiative, which seeks to facilitate delivery of grain to nations facing food insecurity.
"Even as the country struggles with food shortages, devastated farmland, and widespread blackouts, we will never forget our role as a responsible global citizen -- especially having experienced famine as a nation ourselves," Zelensky said in a statement.
He was referring to the Holodomor famine, in which millions of Ukrainians starved to death at the hands of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin's policy of seizing grain.
"Africa is in desperate need of food and Ukraine stands ready to support vulnerable people in their hour of need," the president added.
The timing of the initiative is symbolic, as it comes 90 years after the Holodomor. Zelensky marked the anniversary by hosting leaders from Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Belgium in Kyiv.
Many African nations rely heavily on fertilizer and trade from Russia, and have been reluctant to embrace sanctions. Seventeen African nations abstained from a United Nations vote condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine in March, while 28 voted for the resolution. Only Eritrea voted with Russia.
The head of Zelensky's office, Andriy Yermak, said Ukraine would require the international community and private donors to subsidize the project. The United States and France have each pledged $20 million for the initiative, while Canada has pledged $30 million.
Britain has promised $6 million, with Austria promising $3.9 million and Sweden chipping in with $9.5 million.
A European Commission spokesperson confirmed that European Union will finance the transport of 40,000 tons of Ukrainian grain.
A German-funded ship carrying the grain has already departed for Ethiopia and three more ships are expected to leave soon for Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Russia has said it would extend an agreement to export Ukrainian grain through a corridor in the Black Sea for 120 days.