October 7, 2022

Russian ships carrying stolen Ukrainian grain turned away from Mediterranean ports — but not all of them

4 min read

CNN has identified the ship as the bulk carrier Matros Pozynich.

On April 27, the ship’s weight anchored off the coast of Crimea, and it shut down its transponder. The next day, he was spotted at the port of Sevastopol, Crimea’s main port, according to photographs and satellite images.

Matros Pozynich is one of three ships involved in the stolen grain trade, according to Open Source Research and Ukrainian officials.

Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, produces very little wheat due to a lack of irrigation. But in the north, Ukraine, which has been under Russian occupation since early March, produces millions of tons of grain each year. Ukrainian officials say thousands of tons of trucks are now being transported to Crimea.

Katrina Yarisko, a journalist with the Ukrainian online publication Myrotvorets’ SeaKrime Project, told CNN that the project saw a sharp increase in grain exports from Sevastopol in both March and April – reaching nearly 100,000 tons. ۔

From Sevastopol, according to satellite images and tracking data reviewed by CNN, Metros Poznik made his way across the Bosphorus to the Egyptian port of Alexandria. According to Ukrainian officials, it contained about 30,000 tons (Ukrainian) of wheat.

Biden blames Russia's war in Ukraine for food shortages and rising prices

But the Ukrainians were one step ahead. Officials say Egypt was warned that grain had been stolen. Shipment was returned. With the same result, Pozinch moved on to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Matros Pozynich shut down his transponder again on May 5, but photos from Tankertrackers.com and Maxar Technologies show he traveled to the Syrian port of Latakia.

The Syrian government has close ties with Russia, and the Russian military is often present in Latakia. In fact, Matros Pozynich is named after a Russian soldier killed in Syria in 2015.

Mikhail Vitenko, editor-in-chief of the Maritime Bulletin, told CNN that the grain could be reloaded on another ship in Latakia to determine its authenticity. “When the destination port starts to change without any serious reason, it is another proof of smuggling,” he said.

A close-up view of the Metros Poseinch, named after a Russian soldier killed in Syria in 2015 at the port of Latakia.

In its first comment on the illegal export of grain from Ukraine, the Defense Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate said on Tuesday that “a significant portion of the grain stolen from Ukraine is on ships operating under the Russian flag in Mediterranean waters.” ”

“The most likely destination for cargo is Syria. From there, the grain could be smuggled to other Middle Eastern countries,” he said.

Shipping data shows that Matros Pozynich is one of three bulk carriers registered with a company called Crane Marine Contractor, based in Astrakhan, Russia. The company is not subject to international sanctions.

Attempts to reach CNN failed.

Yarisco says the C-Crime Project has identified the real owners of the three ships as one of 29 companies under the umbrella of a large Russian corporation, whose other entities were approved by the United States shortly after the Russian invasion. ۔

More grain thefts

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry estimates that at least 400,000 tons of grain have been stolen and taken out of Ukraine since the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s Minister of Agricultural Policy and Food, Mykola Solsky, said this week that it had been “systematically sent to Crimea. It is a big business overseen by high-ranking officials.”

CNN Reported last week Trucks with Crimean license plates stole 1,500 tons of grain from storage units in Kherson. I ZaporizhzhiaRussian Army white “Z” trucks were seen delivering grain to Crimea after the city’s main grain elevator was completely emptied.

This week, Ukrainian authorities reported further theft of grain by occupying forces. In one part of Zaporizhzhia, stored grain and sunflower seeds were being prepared for shipment to Russia, the intelligence directorate said. The directorate claimed that a column of Russian trucks carrying grain left the town of Enner Hooder – also in Zaporizhiya – under the protection of the Russian military.

Although Russian ships are apparently capable of carrying Ukrainian grain over the high seas, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Ukrainian farmers to export their produce. Most of it will usually be shipped out of Odessa. While in the hands of Ukraine, Odessa has been the target of frequent missile attacks, and much of the Black Sea is restricted to commercial shipments.

The Russians stole large quantities of Ukrainian grain and supplies, threatening this year's crop

As CNN reported last week, Ukrainian ships have diverted some grain to Romania by rail. But it is unlikely to be the solution to the growing supply crisis that is affecting global markets.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power tweeted this week.“Putin’s war is destroying food supplies; Ukraine is the world’s # 4 exporter of corn and # 5 exporter of wheat.”

Ukraine and Russia typically supply about 30 percent of the world’s wheat exports, with the bulk going to the world’s poorest countries. According to the United Nations, global food prices hit a record high in March due to the war in Ukraine. Drought in the wheat-growing regions of France and Canada threatens to worsen the already severe supply situation.

“Without our agricultural exports, dozens of countries in different parts of the world are already on the brink of food shortages,” President Vladimir Zelensky said Tuesday.

On the same day, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, was in Odessa with the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denis Schmel, looking at the huge amount of grain stored at the port.

“I saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn ready for export,” he said, tweeting. There are dramatic consequences for weaker countries. ”

Trading Economics noted on Wednesday that “wheat prices are 31 percent higher than before the Russian invasion, as disruption of exports from the Black Sea has significantly reduced global supplies.”

As far as the Russians are concerned, they seem ready to adapt to new realities in world markets. Of Russian Grain Union A conference is scheduled for June. According to the union’s Instagram account, one of the sessions was: “Approval restrictions – how the grain sector is adapting to the new reality and why the state is reacting to the change of circumstances with extraordinary speed.”

CNN’s Josh Pennington and Paul P. Murphy contributed to this report.

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