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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

AP Investigation Proves Russia Is Stealing Then Selling Ukraine's Grain

An investigation conducted by the Associated Press (AP) on Russian smuggling of Ukrainian grain has confirmed the claims of Kyiv that Russian forces have been hauling wheat from farms, bringing the cargoes to Crimea, and shipping and selling them to Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.

Photo Insert: The Kremlin has denied stealing any grain, but Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported on June 16 that Ukrainian grain was being trucked to Crimea.

In a report written by Michael Biesecker, Sarah El Deeb, and Beatrice Dupuy, the inquiry belied the claims of Russia that the wheat brought to Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon came from Kavkaz, Russia since the port listed in the manifests of at least three huge cargo ships was so shallow it could only accommodate ships with a maximum depth of 5.3 meters or 17.5 ft.

The Laodicea cargo ship that brought wheat to Lebanon couldn’t have picked up its cargo in Kavkaz as the ship’s hull is 8 meters below the surface. The ship, along with cargo vessels Souria and Finikia, is owned by Syriamar Shipping Ltd., a Syrian company under sanctions by the US.

These ships all loaded their grain in Feodosia, Crimea, which is 10.6 meters deep and could handle big ships.

The grain was trucked in from Crimea using Russian trucks. Not a single red cent was paid to Ukrainian farmers. AP tracked the 10 voyages made by these ships and confirmed they all turned dark, or shut off their transponders to avoid detection, after loading in Feodosia and sailing to Sevastopol in Crimea.

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Ukrainian agricultural holding company HarvEast reported that Russians had taken about 200,000 metric tons of grain, which CEO Dmitry Skornyakov said cost his company about $50 million. He said his employees in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol reported the grain was trucked across the border into Russia.

“To steal it, they just drive to Rostov and Taganrog, small Russian ports, then mix it with the Russian grain and say that that is Russian grain,” Skornyakov said.

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A copy of the Laodicea’s manifests obtained by AP in late July 2022 claimed its port of origin was Kavkaz, Russia. Its cargo was listed as nearly 10,000 metric tons of “Russian Barley and Russian Flour in Bags.” 

The shipper was listed as the Russian company Agro-Fregat and the buyer was Loyal Agro Co Ltd., a wholesale grocer headquartered in Turkey. Agro-Fregat train cars have been recorded rolling through the Crimean port town of Feodosia, where satellite imagery shows trucks and trains lined up as grain was being loaded onto ships.

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The Kremlin has denied stealing any grain, but Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported on June 16 that Ukrainian grain was being trucked to Crimea, resulting in long lines at border checkpoints.

TASS later reported that grain from Melitopol had arrived in Crimea and that additional shipments were expected, bound for customers in the Middle East and Africa.

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