Turkey seizes Russian ship with ‘stolen’ Ukrainian grain | Ukraine

A Russian-flagged ship carrying thousands of tons of grain is being detained and investigated by Turkish authorities in the Black Sea port of Karasu over claims the cargo was stolen from Ukraine.

Turkish customs officials intervened after Kiev alleged that the Zhibek Zholy was illegally transporting 7,000 tons of grain from Russian-occupied Berdiansk, a Ukrainian port in the southeast of the country.

Officials in Karasu said the ship was waiting outside the harbor while an investigation into the origin of the shipment was underway.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed the ship was under the Russian flag but appeared to be clouding the waters, while claiming the Kremlin was seeking clarity on Monday.

“The ship actually flies under the Russian flag, but I think it belongs to Kazakhstan and the cargo was transported under a contract between Estonia and Turkey,” Lavrov told reporters.

Kiev has accused Russia of stealing grain from occupied Ukrainian territory to sell it on international markets. The country’s grain exports account for nearly 15% of the world’s total.

The case of the Zhibek Zholy has brought into sharp focus the claims of theft and put the Turkish government in a sensitive position as it continues to seek a mediating role between Moscow and Kiev on the issue of global food supply.

The voyage of the Zhibek Zholy had been proudly announced by the Moscow-appointed head of the occupied Zaporizhzhya region, where the port of Berdiansk is located, as the “first commercial ship” to take supplies from Russian-controlled ports since the beginning of the war.

The Ukrainian Attorney General’s office then wrote to the Turkish Ministry of Justice on June 30 that the Zhibek Zholy was involved in the “illegal export of Ukrainian grain” and that it was on its way to Karasu.

Turkey was asked to “inspect this seagoing vessel, seize grain samples for forensic examination and demand information on the location of such grain”.

The country’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, had said on Ukrainian national television on Sunday that he hoped the grain would be seized.

He said: “We have full cooperation. The ship is currently standing at the entrance to the harbor. It has been detained by the customs authorities of Turkey.”

However, the difficulty of identifying the grain’s origin remains real. The Russian-appointed governments in the occupied territories also claim that they are working with local farmers to release grain into the world market.

Sign up for First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

On Tuesday, Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhya region announced an agreement to sell grain to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Russia’s Tass news agency quoted Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the government, as saying that Russian agricultural traders and state-owned enterprises bought grain from farmers in the region.

“Prices are not bad at the moment,” Balitsky told the news agency. “A farmer gets about $200 per ton of grain, which is great because his production costs are around $120, even if we factor in the long storage time that was forced.”

Leave a Comment