Ukraine Accuses Syria, Turkey of Receiving Grain Stolen by Russia

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Pouring corn grain into tractor trailer after harvest

CEM REPORT | Kyiv’s ambassador to Ankara has said Turkey is among the countries buying grain that Russia stole from Ukraine, Reuters has reported.

Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said this Friday. He also told reporters he has sought help from Turkish authorities and Interpol investigating who is involved in the shipments of grains transiting Turkish waters

On April 28, Ukraine accused Russia of stealing grain in territory it has occupied, an act which it said increased the threat to global food security posed by disruptions to spring sowing and the blocking of Ukrainian ports during the war.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement that it “strongly condemns the criminal actions of the Russian Federation in the so-called expropriation of crops from farmers in the Kherson region” of southern Ukraine.

“The looting of grain from the Kherson region, as well as the blocking of shipments from Ukrainian ports and the mining of shipping lanes, threaten the world’s food security,” it said.

“We demand that Russia stop the illegal theft of grain, unblock Ukrainian ports, restore freedom of navigation and allow the passage of merchant ships.”

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office said in a separate statement that it had opened a criminal case into allegations that Russian soldiers, threatening violence, had on April 26 taken away 61 tonnes of wheat from an agricultural enterprise in the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister, Taras Vysotskiy, re-echoed the accusation on April 30 while speaking to Ukrainian national TV that Russian forces have stolen “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain in the areas of Ukraine they occupy.

Taras Vysotskiy expressed concern that most of what he said was 1.5 million tonnes of grain stored in occupied territory could also be stolen by Russian forces.

Some days later, Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 tonnes of the wheat stolen its ally Syria, an activity he describing the shipments as “criminal activity”.

In a statement to Reuters, the embassy said the shipments included one aboard the Matros Pozynich, a Russian-flagged vessel which docked at Syria’s main sea port Latakia in late May.

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According to Reauters, data from Refinitiv showed the Matros Pozynich loading wheat at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – with a May 19 departure date and the discharge location given as Syria.

Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC on May 29 showed the same vessel docked in Latakia.

Ukraine’s embassy in Lebanon, citing Ukrainian law enforcement, alleged the grain aboard the Matros Pozynich had been “stolen” from Ukrainian storage facilities in areas newly occupied by Russian forces.

On May 12, CNN reported that a Russian merchant ship loaded with grain stolen in Ukraine has been turned away from at least one Mediterranean port and is now in the Syrian port of Latakia, according to shipping sources and Ukrainian officials.

CNN has identified the vessel as the bulk carrier Matros Pozynich.

According to CNN, Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, produces little wheat because of a lack of irrigation. But the Ukrainian regions to its north, occupied by Russian forces since early March, produce millions of tons of grain every year. Ukrainian officials say thousands of tons are now being trucked into Crimea.

Kateryna Yaresko, a journalist with the SeaKrime project of the Ukrainian online publication Myrotvorets, told CNN the project had noticed a sharp increase in grain exports from Sevastopol — to about 100,000 tons in both March and April.

From Sevastopol, according to satellite images and tracking data reviewed by CNN, the Matros Pozynich transited the Bosphorus and made its way to the Egyptian port of Alexandria. It was laden with nearly 30,000 tons of (Ukrainian) wheat, according to Ukrainian officials.

But the Ukrainians were one step ahead. Officials say Egypt was warned that the grain was stolen; the shipment was turned away. The Pozynich steamed towards the Lebanese capital, Beirut, with the same result.

The Matros Pozynich turned off its transponder again on May 5, but imagery from Tankertrackers.com and Maxar Technologies shows it traveled to the Syrian port of Latakia.

The Syrian regime has a close relationship with Russia and the Russian military are frequently in Latakia. Indeed, the Matros Pozynich is named after a Russian soldier killed in Syria in 2015.

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