Turkey is buying Ukrainian grain stolen by Russia - envoy

Both Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's biggest grain exporters, but the ongoing war has stopped many of these shipments from leaving the Black Sea.

 Grain is placed on Ukrainian and Russian flags in this picture illustration taken May 9, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)
Grain is placed on Ukrainian and Russian flags in this picture illustration taken May 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

Kyiv's ambassador to Ankara said on Friday Turkey is among the countries that is buying grain that Russia stole from Ukraine.

Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar also told reporters he has sought help from Turkish authorities and Interpol investigating who is involved in the shipments of grains transiting Turkish waters.

Background

Reports over the past month have emerged accusing Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain. Both Russia and Ukraine are two of the world's biggest grain exporters, but the ongoing war has stopped many of these shipments from leaving the Black Sea.

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that Belarus was ready to discuss possible transit of Ukraine's grain via Belarus, local newspaper Belarus Today quoted him as saying.

"Now everyone is looking for logistics... Okay, we can talk. We do not mind: bring it through Belarus, but there must be compromises," the newspaper reported, citing Lukashenko.

According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's main intelligence directorate, several grain shipments were being shipped to Syria via Russian cargo ships. Several trucks were also sent to Russia and around 1,500 tons of grain were exported to Crimea from the Kherson Oblast.

 Grain is placed on Ukrainian and Russian flags in this picture illustration taken May 9, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION) Grain is placed on Ukrainian and Russian flags in this picture illustration taken May 9, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

Some of the stolen Ukrainian grain was captured on satellite images, CNN later reported. One merchant ship, the Matros Pozynich, sent by Russia with the stolen grain, was turned away from one Mediterranean port and is in the Syrian port of Latakia as of Thursday, the report stated citing Ukrainian officials. 

A Russian ship loaded with grain had also headed to Egypt, but Cairo had refused to accept it and turned it away. This is despite being one of the world's largest wheat importers which usually imports large volumes of Black Sea wheat.

Russia has denied all accusations of stealing Ukrainian wheat, though officials representing Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union have accused Moscow of "using food as a weapon" to blackmail the world over a looming food crisis.

Russian officials have recently promised to ensure the passage of vital Ukrainian food exports through the Black Sea in exchange for the end of sanctions against it. 

"We call on our friends, the African Union, to persistently demand that the West lift illegal unilateral sanctions that undermine the transport and logistics infrastructure necessary for world trade,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at an Africa Day reception, according to Interfax.

Lavrov noted that African countries were more vulnerable in terms of food security.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko echoed his senior's sentiments, Russian state media outlet TASS reported.

"The solution to the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including those related to the lifting of sanctions restrictions that were imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions, and also requires Ukraine to clear all ports where ships are docked," said Rudenko. "Russia is ready to provide the necessary humanitarian passage, which it and does it every day."

Western sanctions targeting Russia have never once targeted agricultural goods or food.

Michael Starr contributed to this report.