KYIV, UKRAINE — Satellite images purporting to show Russian ships loading up with “stolen” Ukrainian grain amid the countries’ war has the Ukrainian government warning other nations not to purchase the illicit cargos as global food shortages are being acutely felt.
Satellite images from May 19 and 21 apparently show two Russian-flagged bulk carrier ships — the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka — docked at Sevastopol port, Crimea, and loading on grain silos off of a platform, the UK Independent reported.
The ships have left the port with the former enroute to Beirut via the Aegean Sea, while the Matros Koshka is still in the Black Sea, the ship tracking site MarineTraffic.com showed on May 24.
Russia has been pummeling Ukraine infrastructure for more than three months since its Feb. 24 invasion and essentially has enforced a trade blockade from the Black Sea. Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, corn and sunflower seed. Together, Russia and Ukraine account for about 30% of the world’s wheat exports.
The UN has been warning of a global crisis with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying food insecurity was rising in the world’s poorer countries because of higher prices due to the war. Global wheat inventories currently stand at about 10 weeks of global consumption, agricultural data analyst Gro Intelligence told the UN.
On Twitter, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on all nations to reject Russia’s proposals to buy grain he said was stolen in Ukraine.
“Russian thieves steal Ukrainian grain, load it onto ships, pass through Bosporus, and try to sell it abroad,” Kuleba warned. “I call on all states to stay vigilant and refuse any such proposals. Don’t buy the stolen. Don’t become accomplices to Russian crimes. Theft has never brought anyone luck.”
Russian leaders have denied that the country is stealing grain.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is in talks with allies, including Lithuania, about creating a “protective corridor” using the Royal Navy that would allow ships carrying Ukrainian grain to leave the country and help lift Russia’s Black Sea blockade, the Independent reported. It is thought that Egypt and other countries reliant on Ukrainian agricultural commodities could also help.
“(The) Russian blockade of Odesa can and has to be removed,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuanian foreign minister, who met with Liz Truss, British secretary for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, in London on May 23. “Ukraine should be allowed to feed the world.”