ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Ukraine has requested Turkey to assist examine three Russian-flagged ships as a part of Kyiv’s efforts to probe what it alleges is the theft of grain from Russian-occupied territory, in accordance to official paperwork.
In a June 13 letter, which hasn’t beforehand been reported, the Ukrainian prosecutor basic’s workplace requested Turkey’s justice ministry to examine and supply proof on the three named ships it suspects have been concerned in transporting grain allegedly stolen from lately occupied Ukrainian territories, reminiscent of Kherson.
The letter, which Reuters reviewed, mentioned the ships travelled from Crimea’s most important grain terminal in Sevastopol in April and May and pressed Ankara to acquire documentation about their cargo and arrival at Turkish ports. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
All three massive dry bulk carriers – Mikhail Nenashev, Matros Pozynich and Matros Koshka – are owned by a subsidiary of a Western-sanctioned Russian state-owned firm known as United Shipbuilding Corporation, in accordance to Equasis, a transport database. The Russian firm didn’t reply to a request for remark.
If it is established that United Shipbuilding Corporation transported grain from recently-occupied Ukrainian territory, it would add to rising proof of the involvement by Russian-state owned entities in exporting what Kyiv alleges is stolen items. Ukraine has publicly accused Moscow of stealing grain because the February invasion; Russia has repeatedly denied it has stolen any Ukrainian grain.
The battle in Ukraine has heightened issues about meals safety each in Ukraine and across the globe, driving up world meals costs to document ranges this yr. Ukraine is without doubt one of the world’s largest grain exporters however has struggled to export items with warfare raging alongside its southern coast and lots of of its ports blocked. Grain accounts for practically a fifth of all of the nation’s exports, in accordance to official information.
Reuters was unable to decide the origin or finish vacation spot of the grain within the ships named by Kyiv within the letter.
The Kremlin didn’t reply to requests for remark. Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson, mentioned grain from the area was going to Crimea and that native farmers had been liable for transporting it there. He mentioned he had no data of any shipments to Turkey or the Middle East.
Reuters on Friday reported that Kyiv in a separate letter, dated June 30, requested Turkey’s justice ministry to detain and arrest one other Russian-flagged ship carrying what it mentioned was Ukrainian grain from the occupied port of Berdyansk. On Monday, a senior Turkish official mentioned Turkey had halted the cargo ship and is investigating Ukraine’s declare.
NATO member Turkey, which has good ties with each Moscow and Kyiv, has criticised the invasion but additionally rejected Western sanctions on Russia. Ankara has agreed with Ukraine to block industrial shipments between Crimea and Turkey since 2014.
At the identical time, Turkey has performed a key position in discussions between the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine on a possible Black Sea hall to export grain from Ukraine.
Turkey’s justice ministry declined to touch upon Kyiv’s two letters and referred to current feedback by the Turkish international ministry that it had investigated Ukraine’s public claims that grain stolen by Russia had made its method to Turkey and decided there was no challenge.
“We saw that the ships’ port of departure and the origin of the goods is Russia on the records,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu advised reporters on June 23, with out figuring out which ships. “We are against Ukrainian grains or other goods being taken by Russia … and we will not allow these goods to come to us.” The international ministry didn’t reply to requests for touch upon the ship from Berdyansk that arrived in Turkey late final week.
A Turkish diplomatic supply added that Kyiv had shared with Ankara its claims about allegedly stolen grain being introduced to Turkey through Russian ships and that cooperation with Ukrainian officers was ongoing.
The Ukrainian prosecutor basic’s workplace didn’t reply to requests for remark. Taras Vysotskiy, the primary deputy to Ukraine’s agriculture minister, advised Reuters that Kyiv estimates about 400,000 tonnes of stolen grain has been exported. Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, advised Reuters Ukraine believes most of that has gone to Turkey and Kyiv has despatched what it thought of to be proof on the involvement of 13 ships to Turkish authorities.
The June 13 letter mentioned not less than two of the ships switched off monitoring programs that overtly broadcast earlier than getting into Sevastopol port.
It additionally mentioned Kyiv suspected grain was being taken from lately occupied territory, notably Kherson, the place it mentioned there have been a number of grain elevators that the homeowners don’t have entry to due to the occupation. It didn’t determine the homeowners. Kyiv, within the letter, added that it is investigating prison violations of Ukraine’s guidelines and customs of warfare, with out naming people.
Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut advised Reuters that not less than seven corporations who personal storage models in newly-occupied territory have registered prison instances with Ukrainian authorities alleging Russia stole their wheat. Two of the businesses, Ukrlandfarming and State Food and Grain Corporation of Ukraine, confirmed to Reuters they’d submitted a doc to Ukrainian authorities however declined to present particulars. The others didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Ukraine has additionally mentioned Russia has despatched its ally Syria wheat allegedly stolen from Ukraine since invading in February. Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut advised Reuters that not less than 150,000 tonnes of what it mentioned was “stolen” wheat have made it to Syria since February, totally on Russian ships, with out specifying how it knew.
Neither Syria’s port authority, which is a part of the transport ministry, nor the Syrian info ministry responded to requests for remark.
One of the vessels Kyiv named within the June 13 letter, the 169-metre lengthy Mikhail Nenashev, was at Sevastopol’s Avlita grain terminal from June 14 to 16, in accordance to satellite tv for pc imagery captured by Planet Labs PBC, a non-public satellite tv for pc operator, which present the ship docked beside grain silos with cranes towering above.
The vessel arrived eight days later at Iskenderun, Turkey, in accordance to Refinitiv Eikon ship-tracking information. Photos and movies equipped by Yoruk Isik, an Istanbul-based geopolitical analyst and head of the Bosphorus Observer consultancy, present port cranes lifting what seems from the photographs to be a golden, grain-like cargo from the Mikhail Nenashev into vehicles on June 27 at close by Dortyol port.
Since March, the Mikhail Nenashev has visited the Sevastopol grain terminal on not less than three different events earlier than arriving in Turkey between 5 and 15 days later, in accordance to satellite tv for pc imagery and ship-tracking information.
In one occasion, it unloaded 27,000 tonnes of wheat within the Turkish seaport of Derince on April 22, in accordance to information from Refinitiv Eikon, which exhibits the cargo was loaded in Sevastopol, Crimea. Ukraine, in its June 13 letter, mentioned the Mikhail Nenashev loaded 27,500 tonnes of grain at Sevastopol’s Avlita grain terminal in April, with out specifying which day.
Dortyol Port didn’t reply to Reuters’ queries in regards to the shipments or precautions taken in gentle of Ukrainian claims. Derince Port confirmed it acquired “Russian ships carrying grains” however didn’t touch upon screening processes. There was no reply at Avlita’s head workplace and an individual on the Sevastopol workplace who answered the cellphone denied all data of Ukrainian grain on the port and put down the cellphone.
Another one of many ships, the Matros Pozynich, docked in Syria on not less than three events inside every week or two of visiting Sevastopol’s Avlita grain terminal, in accordance to satellite tv for pc imagery and ship-tracking information. The third ship, Matros Koshka, has on not less than three events left Sevastopol’s grain terminal earlier than turning off ship transponders, in accordance to satellite tv for pc imagery and monitoring information. On a type of events, it docked in Syria 10 days later, in accordance to a Planet Labs satellite tv for pc picture.
All three ships are owned and managed by Russian-based firm Crane Marine Contractor LLC and had been bought in both December or February, in accordance to possession information from Equasis. The firm is a subsidiary of United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), in accordance to a replica of Crane Marine’s constitution at present on its web site. USC’s web site additionally lists Crane Marine as considered one of its corporations. Russian firm information present Crane Marine is owned by Caspian Energy group, which is a part of USC, in accordance to USC firm press releases dated in 2018.
Crane Marine didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The United States sanctioned USC in 2014 in response to Russia’s efforts “to destabilize eastern Ukraine” saying the state-owned defence expertise agency manufactured arms and constructed ships for the Russian navy. In April, Washington renewed and expanded its sanctions relating to the corporate. Britain sanctioned USC in February.
(Reporting by Reporting by Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul and Reade Levinson in London; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Azra Ceylan, Ali Kucukgocmen, Daren Butler and David Gauthier-Villars in Istanbul, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Maya Gebeily in Beirut, Mark Trevelyan and Jonathan Saul in London and Gus Trompiz in Paris; Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low)