Two Russian transport ships have been spotted loading grain piles in Ukraine as the world food supply is threatened by the invasion of Moscow.
New satellite images from May 19 and 21 show two Russian-flagged bulk carriers – the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka – docked in the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, loading from a platform of grain elevators.
There is growing concern that the war could lead to major world food problems. Last week the UN warned of a global crisis, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres claiming that food insecurity is increasing in the world’s poorer countries due to higher prices due to war.
The risk of famine has also increased. The conflict has cut off Ukraine’s ports, which once exported large quantities of cooking oil, as well as grains like corn and wheat. Ukraine and Russia produce about 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed that Russian soldiers are “gradually stealing” several hundred thousand tons of grain and trying to sell it.
“New satellite images from Maxar Technologies show stolen Ukrainian grain being loaded onto Russian ships in Crimea. There are two Russian-flagged ships docked in the port of temporarily occupied Sevastopol loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain,” said the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security of the Ministry of Ukraine.
The ships have now left port with the former en route to Beirut via the Aegean, while the Matros Koshka is still sighted in the Black Sea, ship-tracking site MarineTraffic.com showed.
It’s not immediately clear if the ships are involved in transporting grain stolen from Ukraine, but the annexed Crimea, unlike other parts of northern Ukraine like Kherson and Zaporizhia, doesn’t boast large grain production.
Authorities and industry sources familiar with the matter said Russian forces in the controlled areas emptied several grain silos and sent them to the southern region, the report added.
President Zelenskyy had called on the international community to help the besieged country free up its seaports.
“The world community must help Ukraine to free up seaports, otherwise the energy crisis will be followed by a food crisis and many more countries will face it,” the Ukrainian president said on Saturday.
He added that Russia has “blocked almost all ports and virtually all maritime opportunities to export food – including our grain, barley, sunflowers and more.”
Russia’s naval operations have wrested control of and access to the northwestern Black Sea and Sea of Azov since invading Ukraine on February 24, disrupting trade and shipping in the region.
Experts warn that wheat production is now expected to be halved this year. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who accused Moscow of arming food and holding grain hostage for millions of people in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, said an estimated 22 million tons of grain were stored in Ukrainian silos.
However, Moscow has denied the allegations of grain theft.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had previously described the reports of grain theft in Russia as “fake news,” Russia’s state news agency TASS reported.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-ukraine-grains-satellite-images-b2085923.html Satellite images show Russian ships carrying ‘stolen Ukrainian grain’