Kyiv’s ambassador to Ankara said on Friday Turkish buyers were among those receiving grain that Russia had illegally shipped out of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula the Kremlin seized and annexed in 2014. He added he is working with Tayyip Erdogan’s government and Interpol to identify and capture individuals responsible for the trade movements.
Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said: “Russia is shamelessly stealing Ukrainian grains and getting it out from the invaded Crimea. These grains are being shipped to foreign countries, including Turkey.
“We have made our appeal for Turkey to help us and, upon the suggestion of the Turkish side, are launching criminal cases regarding those stealing and selling the grains.”
The Ukrainian Embassy in Ankara later said the vessels that were involved in the stolen grains shipments were the Nadezhda, Finikia, Sormivskiy, Vera, and Mikhail Nenashev ships.
Satellite images of the Crimean port of Sevastopol taken by US-based Maxar Technologies on May 19 and 21 show two Russia-flagged bulk carrier ships — the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka — docking and loading up Ukrainian grain.
According to ship-tracking site MarineTraffic.com, the Matros Pozynich made its way to the Syrian port of Latakia after being turned away from at least one Mediterranean port.
Later, on May 29, satellite images from Planet Labs PBC showed the same vessel docked in Latakia.
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Ukraine’s embassy in Lebanon, citing Ukrainian law enforcement, alleged the grain aboard the vessel had been “stolen” from Ukrainian storage facilities in areas newly occupied by Russian troops.
The embassy said: “The wheat is stolen from a facility that combines wheat from three Ukrainian regions into one batch.”
Adding that it had tried to reach out to the Syrian authorities but had never received a response, it said: “This is criminal activity.”
The embassy said more than 100,000 tonnes of “plundered” Ukrainian wheat had arrived in Syria over the last three months.
The row comes as 20million tonnes of corn wait to be shipped out of Odesa, with cargo vessels unable to sail because the port is mined and due to a lack of assurance the Russians in control of the Black Sea will not intervene.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday Kyiv is prepared to work on resuming trade from the key port, yet outlined the challenges that would come with such a move.
He wrote on Twitter: “Ukraine is ready to create necessary conditions to resume exports from the port of Odesa.
“The question is how to make sure that Russia doesn’t abuse the trade route to attack the city of Odesa.
“No guarantees from Russia so far.
“We seek solutions together with the UN and partners.”
Grain trapped in Ukraine’s ports — and the impact this is having on global supply as well as, consequently, prices — is a key topic in discussion over how to minimise the global impact of the war.
Import-dependent states in North Africa and the Middle East are due to suffer the most.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at the Globsec security conference on Thursday: “The world is now teetering on the cusp of a food security crisis.
“There is a … catastrophic rise in prices of basic products in various countries.”
Addressing the audience in Bratislava via video link, he added: “If we do not avert [the supply problems] we will see political chaos in Africa and Asia, and an ensuing migration crisis in Europe when people suffering from famine will seek refuge elsewhere.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month the only effective solution to the food crisis was reintroducing Ukraine’s food production, as well as fertiliser produced by both Russia and Belarus, back into global trading.
He stressed: “There is enough food in our world now if we act together. But unless we solve this problem today, we face the spectre of global food shortage in the coming months.”
Dmitry Medvedev, a former prime minister under Putin and deputy chairman of Russia’s national security council, in May warned Russia would not enable food supplies unless the West eased its sanctions on the country.
Medvedev said Russia was ready to contribute to averting possible famine in some nations but expected “assistance from trading partners, including on international platforms” in return.
He wrote on Telegram: “Otherwise, there’s no logic: on the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies.
“Things don’t work like that, we’re not idiots.”
United Nations officials, along with Ankara, are discussing the terms for grain convoys to run along a safe humanitarian naval corridor, with meetings planned for next week.