Ukrainian journalist confronts Russia’s Sergei Lavrov with grain theft claim – The Guardian

Unscripted question appears to catch foreign minister off guard in Turkey, where he was discussing plans for a grain export corridor from Ukraine
A Ukrainian journalist took advantage of a visit to Ankara by the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to confront him with an unwanted question about grain exports from Ukraine, amid fears of world hunger if the issue is not resolved.
Lavrov was in Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the establishment of secure corridors for Ukrainian grain exports.
But the news conference by Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, was coming to an end without Muslim Umerov having been able to ask his question, despite repeated attempts.
So the journalist stood up and addressed Lavrov directly.
“I am from Ukrainian public television, I absolutely want to ask a question!” he said.
Lavrov appeared embarrassed by the unscripted question, after the news conference’s carefully worded exchanges.
“Apart from cereals, what other goods did you steal from Ukraine and who did you sell them to?” the journalist asked.
Lavrov, smiling, replied: “You Ukrainians are always worried about what you can steal and you think everyone thinks that way.
“Our goals there are clear, we want to save people from the pressure of the neo-Nazi regime. We are not obstructing the grain. In order for it to leave the ports, Mr Zelenskiy must give the order, that’s all,” he added.
Contacted later by Agence France-Presse, Umerov, who is based in Istanbul for Ukrainian public television, explained that he had raised his hand during the whole question-and-answer session but realised that the organisers “would not let me speak” so decided to interject loudly.
“I took the risk of disrupting the news conference because all of Ukraine is waiting for the answer to this question,” he said.
Amid a worsening global food crisis, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said this week there were “credible reports” that Russia was “pilfering” Ukraine’s grain exports to sell for profit. Blinken said the alleged theft was part of broader Russian actions during its war in Ukraine that have hit Ukraine’s ability to export its wheat crop.
On Friday last week, Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara, accused Russia of stealing and exporting Ukrainian grain, particularly to Turkey.
Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Lavrov, the target of western sanctions, has made visits abroad that have taken him notably to China, India, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and twice to Turkey. He was forced to cancel a trip to Serbia after neighbouring countries closed their airspace to his aircraft.
With Agence France-Presse