European Council president Charles Michel has accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries”, and blamed the Kremlin for the looming global food crisis, prompting Moscow’s UN ambassador to walk out of a security council meeting.

Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia walked out of a security council meeting over accusations Moscow was weaponizing the food crisis. Photograph: John Lamparski/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Michel addressed Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia directly at a council meeting on Monday, saying he saw millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships at the Ukrainian port of Odesa a few weeks ago “because of Russian warships in the Black Sea”.

He said Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and grain storage facilities, and its tanks, airstrikes, and mines were preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.

“This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions,” Michel said. “Russia is solely responsible for this looming food crisis. Russia alone.”

Michel accused Russian forces of stealing grain from areas in Ukraine that it has occupied “while shifting the blame of others,” calling this “cowardly” and “propaganda, pure and simple”.

Nebenzia walked out, giving Russia’s seat to another diplomat. Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said later on Telegram’s Russian channel that Michel’s comments were “so rude” that the Russian ambassador left the security council chamber.

Nebenzia later told Reuters: “I couldn’t stay”, claiming it was because of “the lies that Charles Michel came here to distribute”.

Amid a worsening global food crisis, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said 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.

Prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser have soared since the invasion, which began on 24 February. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a fertiliser exporter and Ukraine is an exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

With Associated Press and Reuters

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