Turkey releases Russian ship after inspection for alleged stolen Ukrainian grain
Kiev has summoned the Turkish ambassador to Ukraine to provide an explanation of the result of the Turkish customs inspection
By News Desk - July 07 2022

Russian-flagged cargo ship Zhibek Zholy off the coast of Black Sea port of Karasu, Turkey on 2 July 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo)

Turkish customs authorities released a Russian cargo ship on 6 July after it was detained several days prior due to allegations that the ship was carrying grains ‘stolen’ from Ukraine.

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

“Ignoring the appeal of the Ukrainian side, the ship was released on the evening of 6 July,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.

Zhibek Zholy left Turkey’s northwestern port of Karasu after receiving approval to sail from Turkish authorities.

Kiev has summoned the Turkish ambassador to Ukraine to provide an explanation of the result of the Turkish customs inspection. According to Reuters, the meeting has not taken place yet but the summons has been issued.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on the morning of 7 July.

Ukrainian officials spoke to Middle East Eye, saying they believe the ship will likely sail to Russia or to another port in Ukraine that is under control of Russian armed forces.

Investigators inspected the ship on 4 July to determine if the grain was stolen 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 the implementation of a UN plan for a “food corridor” in the Black Sea, whereby ships carrying grain exports can safely sail.

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 has put Ankara in a tough position as it seeks to play a mediating role between Russia and Ukraine, in addition to cooperating with Russia in the plan for the ‘food corridor’.

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

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