Ukraine requests Lebanese judicial cooperation on grains ship - report

The Russian embassy in Lebanon previously told Reuters it had no information regarding the cargo.

A view shows the ship "Laodicea" docked at port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, July 29, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/Walid Saleh)
A view shows the ship "Laodicea" docked at port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, July 29, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Walid Saleh)

Ukraine on Monday asked for judicial cooperation from Lebanon where a sanctioned Syrian-flagged ship is docked which it says is loaded with flour and barley taken by Russia from its stores, a Ukrainian embassy official told Reuters.

The request is based on evidence put together by a Ukrainian judge and handed to Lebanon's foreign ministry. It follows an order by Lebanon's top prosecutor on Friday to seize the ship pending an investigation into the source of its cargo.

A security source told Reuters that public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat had asked the intelligence division of Lebanon's internal security forces to carry out an investigation.

Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Ukrainian embassy said its request contains evidence supporting its accusations about the ship, the Laodicea, and its cargo, both of which were ordered seized by a Ukrainian judge on Friday.

 A view of the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. (credit: OMAR IBRAHIM / REUTERS) A view of the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, August 6, 2020. (credit: OMAR IBRAHIM / REUTERS)

The Russian embassy in Lebanon previously told Reuters it had no information regarding the cargo. Russia has previously denied allegations that it has stolen grain from Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has accused Russia of plundering grain and increasing the threat to global food security.

The Ukrainian embassy said they believed the Laodicea, which docked in the port of Tripoli on Wednesday, was carrying 5,000 tonnes of barley and 5,000 tonnes of flour taken from Ukrainian stores.

An official from the Turkey-based company that owns the cargo, Loyal Agro Co LTD, told Reuters last week it was carrying 8,000 tonnes of flour and 1,700 tonnes of barley and denied the cargo was stolen from Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities say the ship traveled to a port in Russian-occupied Crimea that is closed to international shipping, where it took on the cargo before sailing to Lebanon.

In addition to the criminal probe in Lebanon that has led to the seizure of the ship, the Ukrainian embassy filed a civil case in Tripoli on Friday that led to a 72-hour seizure order on the ship, the judge who issued the order confirmed to Reuters.

That order was extended on Monday for a further 72 hours based on new evidence presented by the Ukrainians, Judge Zeinab Rabab said, adding she had ordered tests to determine how long the cargo could be held before expiring.

The U(kraine)grain situation

Ukraine resumed legal exports of grain to Lebanon in mid-July, the embassy previously said.

On Monday, a ship departed Ukraine's port of Odesa with 26,000 tons of corn on board destined for Lebanon marking the first time a ship has left the port since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

The embassy said Lebanon would receive preferential treatment due to its official stance against Russia's invasion and that Ukraine would support Lebanon as it faces bread shortages due to a three-year financial crisis.