Ukraine has been saying for months that Russia is moving grain from occupied territories. There is mounting evidence for this, as also evidenced by conversations of BBC With Ukrainian farmers in the occupied territories.
The ship, Zjibek Zguli, comes from the port of Berdyansk in southeastern Ukraine. The port has been out of service for months due to the war, but this week it turned out that a ship carrying 7,000 tons of grain had sailed from the port.
Russia denies it stole the grain. According to the authorities, it was legally purchased from farmers in the occupied territories.
Export from occupied territories for some time
York Isik, a Turkish expert on the geopolitics surrounding the Bosphorus, explains that Russia has been exporting grain from occupied Ukrainian lands for some time.
“It has been doing this since 2014, when Crimea was annexed. It is now also exporting grain stolen from the newly occupied territories. In recent months, ships with forged documents have passed through the Bosphorus. Those documents, for example, have mentioned, Those grains came from Crimea or the Russian mainland. But the ship Zhibek Zguli officially sails from the port of Berdyansk. ”
Ukrainian grain export
Ukrainian agriculture plays a major role in the global food supply. The country is known as the “breadbasket of Europe” due to its fertile soil.
Typically, about 12 percent of world wheat exports, 16 percent of maize exports and 18 percent of barley exports come from Ukraine.
Because of the war, harvesting has become more difficult than usual. In addition, farmers cannot lose their crop. By far the bulk of exports go through the Black Sea. But Russia closes Ukrainian ports and there are many offshore mines in the Black Sea. About 25 million tons of grain are at risk of spoilage as a result.
The fact that this ship officially leaves the port of Berdyansk is inconvenient for Turkey.
“Turkey has always supported Ukraine, perhaps more than other European countries,” Isik says. “But she also has an interest in this trade, especially now. The country is facing economic problems, and by helping to export grain from occupied lands, it can buy grain cheaply.” Most of the grain will likely go to Turkey, Syria, and eventually to Iraq and Iran.
Russia denies, Turkey is silent
Ukraine wants to seize the ship because it is carrying stolen grain. It also wants to investigate three other Russian ships that may be carrying stolen grain from Crimea through the Bosphorus. But it is not certain whether Turkey is also cooperating with Ukraine.
A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that the ship was only “subject to standard procedures”. The Turkish government is silent at the moment. Turkey has to make a trade-off: make a profit by allowing such ships to pass, or support Ukraine by stopping the ship.
“Maybe Russia is just watching what happens when they officially sail out of the occupied territories,” Isik says. “They want to know if they can get away with it.”
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