Russia has stolen at least $530 million worth of Ukrainian grain, says AP

4 October 2022, 06:03 PM
The Syrian vessel Laodicea, which tried to sell stolen Ukrainian cargo in Lebanon (Photo:REUTERS/Walid Saleh)

The Syrian vessel Laodicea, which tried to sell stolen Ukrainian cargo in Lebanon (Photo:REUTERS/Walid Saleh)

Russia has stolen at least $530 million worth of Ukrainian grain since the start of its full-scale invasion, according to an investigation by the AP and the PBS series “Frontline”, published on Oct. 3.

Investigators examined satellite images, cargo manifests, ship transponder data, talked to farmers and suppliers, and tracked the routes of about 30 ships that made more than 50 voyages with grain from the occupied regions of Ukraine to ports in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and other countries.

According to their information, rich businessmen and state-owned companies from Russia and Syria, some of which are under U.S. and EU sanctions, are behind the transportation of these stolen agricultural products.

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In particular, the stolen grain from Ukraine to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon was transported by dry cargo ships Laodicea, Souria and Finikia, owned by the Syrian state-owned company Syriamar Shipping Ltd. In addition to it, grain from Ukraine is illegally transported by the sanctioned Russian United Shipbuilding Corporation. According to investigators, it bought three cargo ships through its subsidiary Crane Marine Contractor a few weeks before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which have already made at least 17 voyages between occupied Crimea and ports in Turkey and Syria.

Dmytro Skornyakov, CEO of the Ukrainian agricultural holding HarvEast, quoted his company's employees in occupied Mariupol as saying that Russians are taking the stolen grain to Russia: "To steal it, they just go to Rostov and Taganrog, small Russian ports, mix it with Russian grain, and say it's Russian grain."

Investigators used satellite imagery and transponder data to establish that large cargo ships anchored off the Russian coast meet smaller vessels at sea carrying grain from Crimean and Russian ports. Large ships then deliver the mixed grain to Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Representatives of the Turkish company Yayla Agro told reporters that 8,800 tons of corn purchased from the Russian ship Fedor were loaded in the Russian port of Kavkaz, according to the documentation provided. At the same time, satellite images show that the ship was loaded in occupied Sevastopol. Investigators have recorded more than one case when vessels with disabled transponders load Ukrainian grain in occupied Crimea, and later claim that the cargo arrived from the Russian port of Kavkaz.

AP and Frontline investigators also tracked the voyages of the vessels Mikhail Nenashev, Laodicea, and Souria from occupied Crimea to Turkey — to the docks of grain storage facilities operated by the state-owned Turkish Grain Council. The press service and management of the council did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the AP, Turkish authorities have pledged to stop the transportation of stolen grain, but Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu claimed during a press conference in June that Ankara had found no evidence of stolen grain shipments.

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