World leaders have condemned Russia harshly for weaponizing food in its war on Ukraine. By blockading Ukrainian grain shipments in ports and besieging civilians in the nation’s cities, Russia is using starvation as a war strategy.

As Tufts University scholars Tom Dannenbaum, Alex De Waal and Daniel Maxwell explain, military powers have done this for thousands of years, typically without being held to account. Now, however, international law clearly forbids starvation of civilians as a warfare tactic. “It is time to confront the criminality of this practice,” they assert – and to do it in places like Yemen, Syria and South Sudan as well as in Ukraine.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Energy Editor

Grain warehouse destroyed by Russian attacks in Kopyliv, Kyiv province, Ukraine, May 28, 2022. Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Starving civilians is an ancient military tactic, but today it’s a war crime in Ukraine, Yemen, Tigray and elsewhere

Tom Dannenbaum, Tufts University; Alex De Waal, Tufts University; Daniel Maxwell, Tufts University

Countries have used starvation as a war strategy for centuries, historically without being prosecuted. Three experts on hunger and humanitarian relief call for holding perpetrators accountable.

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