Turkey seizes Russian cargo ship allegedly carrying ‘stolen’ Ukrainian grain
Moscow has denied all allegations of the theft of wheat from Ukraine
By News Desk - July 05 2022

Russian-flagged cargo ship Zhibek Zholy off the coast of Black Sea port of Karasu, Turkey on 3 July 2022 (Photo credit: Mehmet Emin Caliskan/Reuters)

Turkey seized a Russian-flagged cargo ship due to allegations of it carrying stolen Ukrainian grains, according to a statement on 3 July by Vasyl Bodnar, the Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey.

Turkish customs authorities seized the Russian-flagged Zhibek Zholy cargo ship at the request of Ukrainian authorities, alleging that 7,000 tonnes of grains are being illegally exported from territories controlled by Russian armed forces.

“We have full co-operation. The ship is currently standing at the entrance to the port, it has been detained by the customs authorities of Turkey,” Ambassador Bodnar said on Ukrainian national television.

Investigators inspected the ship on 4 July and will determine if the grain should be confiscated or not.

Moscow has denied all allegations of the theft of wheat from Ukraine.

“The ship really is Russian-flagged, but I think it belongs to Kazakhstan and the cargo was being carried on a contract between Estonia and Turkey,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

Lavrov recently visited Turkey on 8 June to discuss mutual cooperation for easing the food crisis, namely through implementing a UN plan for a “food corridor” in the Black Sea whereby ships can safely sail with grain exports.

The two ministers declared that the main problem obstructing the safe shipment of grain exports were the mines placed in the sea by Ukrainian forces and Azov Battalion militants.

Lavrov criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for refusing to discuss the clearing of mines.

“We state daily that we’re ready to guarantee the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for the [Bosphorus] gulf, and we’re ready to do that in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues,” Lavrov said. “To solve the problem, the only thing needed is for the Ukrainians to let vessels out of their ports, either by de-mining or by marking out safe corridors … nothing more is required.”

The two officials declared that the Russian and Turkish navies are ready to contribute to the de-mining process, and that Russia would not use the clearing of mines as a pretext to launch attacks on Ukraine.

The pressure from Kiev put Ankara in a tough position as it seeks to play a mediating role between Russia and Ukraine, in addition to cooperation with Russia in the “food corridor” plan.

The Zhibek Zholy was celebrated as the first commercial ship to leave the ports of eastern Ukraine since the outbreak of the war.

The Russian-appointed administrators in the eastern territories of Ukraine have stated that the grain they acquire is in full cooperation with local farmers. Administrators in the Zaporizhzhia region announced a deal to supply grains to Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia on 5 July.

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