Ukraine war must end, Russia’s fertilizer and coal king says

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The war in Ukraine is a tragedy that must be stopped or there will be a global food crisis, as fertilizer prices worldwide are already too high for many farmers, Russia’s coal and fertilizer king Andrei Melnichenko said on Monday.

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Several of Russia’s richest businessmen have publicly called for peace since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24, including Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven, and Oleg Deripaska.

The United States and its European allies cast Putin’s invasion as an imperial-style land grab that has so far been poorly executed because Moscow under-estimated Ukrainian resistance and Western resolve to punish Russia.

The West has sanctioned Russian businessmen, including European Union sanctions on Melnichenko, frozen state assets and cut off much of the Russian corporate sector from the global economy in an attempt to force Putin to change course.

Putin refuses to.

“The events in Ukraine are truly tragic. We urgently need peace,” Melnichenko, 50, who is Russian but was born in Belarus and has a Ukrainian mother, told Reuters in a statement emailed by his spokesman.

“As a Russian by nationality, a Belarusian by birth, and a Ukrainian by blood, I feel great pain and disbelief witnessing brotherly peoples fighting and dying.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands, displaced more than 2 million people, and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the United States, the world’s two biggest nuclear powers.

Putin says Russians and Ukrainians are essentially one people and that a “special military operation” was needed because the United States was using Ukraine to threaten Russia while Russian-speakers were being persecuted in Ukraine.

“One of the victims of this crisis will be agriculture and food,” said Melnichenko, who founded Uralchem, Russia’s largest ammonium nitrate producer which is based in Zug, Switzerland, and SUEK, Russia’s top coal producer.

“It has already led to soaring prices in fertilizers which are no longer affordable to farmers.”

Melnichenko said a supply chain already disrupted by COVID was now even more distressed. “Now it will lead to even higher food inflation in Europe and likely food shortages in the world’s poorest countries,” he said.

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