Report details Russia’s damage to Ukrainian crop storage

(State Dept./M. Gregory)
A bombed grain silo containing burning grain is shown in Zasillya, Ukraine, July 16. (© Wojciech Grzedzinski/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Russia’s military has damaged, destroyed or taken control of nearly 16% of Ukraine’s grain storage facilities since the latest invasion began in February, a new analysis shows.

That translates to one in six facilities in Ukraine that store wheat, barley, sunflowers and other staples that typically would have fed a significant portion of the world before Russia’s latest invasion.

“If Ukrainian farmers cannot have enough storage to be able to plant their winter wheat, we could look at food shortages that have global implications,” Nathaniel Raymond, executive director of Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL), said at the Foreign Press Center in Washington September 16.

He noted that even minor damage to a grain silo can compromise crop storage.

The report, Ukraine’s Crop Storage Infrastructure: Post-Invasion Impact Assessment, is part of the Yale HRL’s efforts supporting the Conflict Observatory, which is documenting evidence of Russian-perpetrated war atrocities, including possible crimes in Ukraine.

Latest evidence of destruction

The finding that Russia’s war has weakened Ukraine’s crop storage capacity is the latest evidence that Russian President Valdimir Putin’s war contributes to a global food crisis threatening millions of people around the world.

Russia’s war has destroyed Ukrainian farms and stymied exports from Ukraine, a major supplier of food. According to the World Food Programme, 345 million people face acute food insecurity worldwide and 50 million people in 45 countries are on the edge of famine.

Since February, the United States has provided over $5.7 billion in emergency food security assistance globally, including to African countries suffering from extreme hunger and malnutrition.

(State Dept./M. Gregory)

The new analysis of impacts to Ukraine’s agricultural facilities since the February 24 invasion found that:

  • At least 75 grain storage facilities — roughly 5.36% of Ukraine’s storage capacity — have been damaged or destroyed.
  • 60 of the 75 damaged facilities, or 80%, are near ports or critical railways.
  • As of July, Russia and its aligned forces controlled approximately 10.7% of Ukraine’s crop storage capacity.

The study’s authors said intentional or indiscriminate targeting of crop storage facilities may constitute a war crime under international law.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a September 15 statement, “The ramifications of Russia’s aggression reverberate far outside Europe, and now affect the health and wellbeing of tens of millions of people worldwide.” He noted significant spikes in the cost of wheat.

“The United States will continue to firmly stand with Ukraine as it defends its freedom, for the sake of its own people and of people across the globe who rely on the harvests from Ukraine’s farmlands,” Price said.