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Russian Ships Taking Stolen Ukrainian Grain to Syria: Ukraine Ministry of Defense

foreignpolicy.com
foreignpolicy.com

Russian-flagged ships filled with stolen Ukrainian grain are transporting the looted cargo to Syria, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

The ships have already reached the Mediterranean Sea, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate said on Tuesday, and from Syria, the grain may be smuggled to other countries in the Middle East. The report comes amid concerns of a global food crisis as Russia continues its war in Ukraine, one of the largest grain-exporting nations in the world.

“The most likely destination country is Syria,” the intelligence directorate said of the stolen grain on social media. “From there, grain can be supplied to other countries in the Middle East.”

The agency also said that a large number of stolen vegetables, grain, and seeds were being transported from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region to Crimea under Russian military guard. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that in the past week, Egypt had turned away two Russian vessels transporting stolen Ukrainian wheat.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of stealing and threatening their food supply throughout the war.

Last week, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry estimated that 400,000 tons of grain had been stolen since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

CNN reported last week that trucks with Crimean license plates pilfered 1,500 tons of grain from storage units in Kherson and that in Zaporizhzhia, trucks bearing the white “Z” symbol of the Russian military were spotted transporting grain to Crimea after the city’s main grain elevator was completely emptied.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters of corn and wheat, has about 25 million tons of grain ready for export but stuck due to the Russian blockade of the Black Sea, the United Nations’s food agency said last week.

Ukrainian officials have also accused Russia of attacking some of these food storage facilities during the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Monday that “immediate measures” must be taken to unblock the country’s ports in order to prevent a global food crisis.

In March, global food prices skyrocketed to all-time highs. President Joe Biden said during a trip to Europe last month that the global community must be prepared to address world hunger and pledged follow-up action with the G-7 nations.

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