The Royal Navy could be sent to the Black Sea as part of plans to create a “corridor of protection” to allow ships carrying Ukrainian grain to leave the country.
The UK is in talks with allies, including Lithuania, about forming an “alliance of the willing” to help lift the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports. It is believed that Egypt and other countries dependent on Ukrainian products could also help.
If possible, the waters near the Ukrainian coast would have to be cleared before exports could resume.
Millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain that would typically be shipped around the world remain in silos across the country, raising fears of a worsening global food crisis. Concern has also increased due to lower-than-expected crop yields in countries like India.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who met his British counterpart Liz Truss in London earlier this week, stressed that Ukraine must be allowed to export its grain to alleviate food insecurity.
“The Russian blockade of Odessa can and must be lifted. Ukraine should be allowed to feed the world,” he said on Monday.
On Tuesday, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps expressed similar concerns.
“We are looking at all the different options…there are many potential ways to get grain and other goods out of the country,” he said.
“It is absolutely essential that we do this, otherwise there could be a lot of hunger and [even] famine.”
Last week, David Beasley, the director of the United Nations World Food Programme, urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift his naval blockade “so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avoid starvation”.
Russia, however, has indicated that it will not consider taking this step unless Western sanctions against it are reviewed.