Exclusive: Ukraine asks Turkey to detain Russian-flagged ship it claims is carrying Ukrainian grain

Workers store grain at a terminal while harvesting barley in the Odessa region as Russian attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine June 23, 2022. REUTERS/Igor Tkachenko

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  • Ukraine says ship involved in illegal grain export
  • Owner from Kahakh says ship has been chartered to Russian company
  • Kremlin previously denied that Russia had stolen grain from Ukraine

LONDON/ISTANBUL, July 1 (Reuters) – Ukraine has asked Turkey to detain and arrest the Russian-flagged freighter Zhibek Zholy, which is carrying a cargo of Ukrainian grain from the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk, according to a Ukrainian official and document seen. by Reuters.

The official of Ukraine’s foreign ministry, citing information from the country’s maritime administration, said 7,146 dwt Zhibek Zholy had loaded the first cargo of about 4,500 tons of grain from Berdyansk, which the official said belonged to Ukraine. .

In a letter dated June 30 to the Turkish Ministry of Justice, the office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General separately stated that the Zhibek Zholy was involved in the “illegal export of Ukrainian grain” from Berdyansk and en route was to Karasu, Turkey, with 7,000 tons of cargo, which is a larger cargo than what the official says.

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The Ukrainian Prosecutor General asked Turkey to “inspect this seagoing vessel, seize grain samples for forensic examination, demand information on the location of such grain,” the letter said, adding that Ukraine was prepared to sign a joint investigation with Turkish authorities.

A Russian-installed official in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya region said on Thursday that after a hiatus of several months, the first cargo ship had left the port of Berdyansk without naming Zhibek Zholy.

Kremlin officials in Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the areas Russian troops have occupied since the invasion began in late February. The Kremlin has previously denied that Russia stole Ukrainian grain.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the arrival of the Zhibek Zholy.

KTZ Express, based in Kazakhstan, confirmed to Reuters that the Zhibek Zholy was owned by the company, but said it was taken under a bareboat charter – when no crew or supplies are involved – by Russian company Green- Line, which was not designated under any sanctions.

KTZ Express added that it consulted the concerned parties and would abide by all sanctions and restrictions. Green-Line was not immediately available for comment.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official added that the ship was on its way to the Turkish port of Karasu.

The ship reported its position at anchor near the port of Karasu, the Refinitiv vessel’s tracking data showed on Friday. The data shows that it crosses the Black Sea from the vicinity of Crimea. It has not listed Berdyansk as a destination in the past 48 hours, but its tracking data is dependent on transponders updating their positions.

Earlier this month, Russia’s defense minister said the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, controlled by Russian forces, are ready to resume grain shipments.

Western countries have accused Russia of creating the risk of global famine by preventing Ukraine from exporting grain through its Black Sea ports. Moscow denies responsibility for the international food crisis and blames Western sanctions.

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Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul, additional reporting by Tamara Vaal in Nur-Sultan and Omer Berberoglu in Istanbul; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alison Williams

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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