Evidence is mounting that Russia is stealing Ukrainian harvests and trying to sell it.
On Tuesday, the intelligence arm of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that Russian ships carrying stolen Ukrainian grain had reached the Mediterranean Sea and were likely en route to Syria.
“From there, grain can be supplied to other countries in the Middle East,” the ministry said.
Last week, the UN cited anecdotal evidence that Russian troops were seizing Ukrainian grain harvests—including wheat, barley, and rye. Ukrainian officials confirmed this, saying that the Russian army had been “stealing their grain en masse” from farmers in Russian-occupied territory.
A ship with stolen grain
A Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain is reportedly in the Mediterranean, seeking to offload its goods to the highest bidder.
On Tuesday, data and satellite imagery company Planet Labs captured photos of the Russian-flagged bulk carrier Matros Pozynich docking in Latakia, the principal port city of Syria. The satellite images were later analyzed by the Associated Press, which verified that the ship in the photo shared characteristics with the Matros Pozynich.
The ship is carrying 27,000 tons of grain, according to maritime tracking site FleetMon, and left port in the Russian-administered Crimean peninsula in late April. The Ukrainian government has alleged that this grain was stolen from the country by Russian troops, the AP reported.
The Matros Pozynich was originally headed for the port of Alexandria, Egypt, according to FleetMon. But after Ukrainian officials requested that Egypt not accept the ship and its stolen cargo, the Matros Pozynich changed course for Syria.
Last week, two Russian ships carrying stolen Ukrainian wheat were reportedly turned away from Egyptian ports, a Ukrainian official stationed in Egypt told the Wall Street Journal.
The Matros Pozynich’s last known location was recorded on May 4 between the Greek island of Crete and Cyprus, according to marine vessel tracking website VesselFinder. The ship’s transponders determining its location have been off since then.
Ukrainian grain is now in Russian hands
Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian troops have been stealing grain from Ukrainian farmers and transporting it to Crimea where it is then loaded onto Russian ships headed for international markets. For months, Ukrainian ships carrying grain have been unable to leave ports due to a Russian naval blockade and bombardment of the port city of Odesa.
Thousands of tons of grain were removed and loaded onto trucks last week in the Russian-controlled regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, CNN reported. These trucks bore Crimean license plates and were adorned with the “Z” sign that has now become iconic on Russian military vehicles. The trucks were later seen carrying the looted grain toward Crimea.
The blockade of Ukrainian ports has left around 25 million tons of grain stuck in the country’s storage facilities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged for action to be taken against the Russian blockade to prevent a global food crisis.
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