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Ernst takes on Putin, global food shortage in push to de-mine the Black Sea

EXCLUSIVE: Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is leading the push in Congress to renew training efforts to de-mine the Black Sea and allow passage of merchant ships as concerns surrounding a global famine mount.

“De-mining the sea’s shipping lanes is a critical step in both aiding Ukraine and releasing grain to the rest of the world, and the United States should have no hesitancy to help with this effort,” Ernst told Fox News Digital. “And yet, right now, bureaucratic red tape stands in the way of the United States training Ukraine to remove these mines from the Black Sea.”

At least 420 mines were launched in the Black Sea in March, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service, with several having floated off the shores of neighboring nations like Romania and Turkey. 


Russia claimed Ukrainian forces placed them there, while Kyiv accused Russia of disinformation and creating a guise to justify their presence in Ukrainian waters. 

Ernst, the only female combat veteran to serve in Congress, pushed through a bipartisan-backed amendment earlier this month in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would circumvent standard training procedures during time of war and allow the U.S. to train Ukrainians to de-mine their waters.

The Department of Defense enforces geographical limits on where de-mining training can occur to countries where the practice will actually be conducted. 

The training is also prohibited in active war zones, according to the senator.

Russian Navy ships are docked in the Sevastopol bay on March 4, 2014.


Ernst’s legislation would circumvent this standard practice and allow the U.S. to train Ukrainians in non-combative locations in allied nations. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deadly campaign in Ukraine has not only changed the security apparatus in Europe, it has bridged partisan politics in Washington for the sake of Kyiv.

The NDAA passed in the Senate Armed Services Committee in 23-3 vote earlier this month with Ernst’s amendment and has headed to the Senate floor for consideration. 

“Putin is waging war beyond the battlefield by holding a major source of the world’s food supply hostage,” Ernst told Fox News. “De-mining the sea’s shipping lanes is a critical step in both aiding Ukraine and releasing grain to the rest of the world.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a press conference following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 19, 2022, in Washington, DC. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly warned that Kyiv has been unable to export 22 million tons of grain sitting in holding containers amid Russia’s Black Sea blockade. 

Officials around the globe have been sounding the alarm that the war in Ukraine will not only have security implications in Europe, but could push as many as 49 million to the brink of famine and starvation. 

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