BEIRUT, LEBANON — Russian has used a smuggling operation to steal Ukrainian grain worth at least $530 million and then used the cash to fund its war efforts, the Associated Press and “Frontline” television series found in an investigation.

AP used satellite images and marine radio transponder data to track more than three dozen ships carrying grain from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine to ports in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and more. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and instituted a Black Sea blockade that was partially lifted by a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July. Ukraine's grain storage and export infrastructure also has been decimated by the war as well.

The theft is being carried out by wealthy businessmen and state-owned companies in Russia and Syria, the investigation found.

For example, the bulk cargo ship Laodicea docked in Lebanon last summer was carrying grain stolen by Russia. Laodicea likely started its journey in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which Russia seized in the early days of the war.

Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov told AP the occupiers are moving vast quantities of grain from the region by train and truck to ports in Russia and Crimea, a strategic Ukrainian peninsula that Russia has illegally occupied since 2014.

 When it arrived in Lebanon two weeks later, it claimed to be carrying grain from a Russian port on the other side of the Black Sea.

 The shipper was listed as Agro-Fregat and the buyer was Loyal Agro Co Ltd., a wholesale grocer headquartered in Turkey.

 Agro-Fregat didn't respond to emailed questions from the AP and a phone number that had been listed on its website was out of service last week.

A spokesman for Loyal Agro said the ship's cargo came from Russia.

But the Laodicea couldn’t have picked up its cargo in Kavkaz, the Russian port listed on the manifest, AP said. The ship’s hull, which reaches 8 meters (26 feet) below the surface, would run aground in the relatively shallow port.

 Another company involved in smuggling grain is United Shipbuilding Corp., a Russian state-owned defense contractor sanctioned by the United States for providing weapons to the Russian war effort, AP said.

 The company, through its subsidiary Crane Marine Contractor, bought three cargo ships just weeks before Putin invaded Ukraine.

 The three ships have made at least 17 trips between Crimea and ports in Turkey and Syria.

Though Turkish authorities have pledged to stop illegal smuggling, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a June news conference his country had not found any evidence of theft.