The Associated Press has identified a bulker suspected of carrying stolen Ukrainian grain at the port of Latakia, Syria, with the help of satellite imaging company Planet Labs.
According to Ukrainian officials, the Russian bulker Matros Pozynich is transporting 27,000 tonnes of grain from Russian-controlled regions. The Pozynich made two excursions from the Black Sea to the Syrian seas in March and April, according to AIS data given by Pole Star, returning to Syria for the second time on May 5. Her AIS record has numerous gaps during these journeys, indicating that her transponder was turned off.
According to Ukrainian officials, on her most recent trip to the Black Sea, the Pozynich loaded a cargo of stolen Ukrainian grain in Russian-occupied Crimea, then attempted to transport it to a buyer in Alexandria, Egypt. Egyptian officials refused to let the vessel approach after a request from the Ukrainian government, thus the Pozynich was rerouted to a port in Russia-aligned Syria. According to the Associated Press, satellite image has spotted the Pozynich at a pier in Latakia.
Ukraine’s military intelligence believes stolen Ukrainian grain would be processed through Syria and transported out to nearby Middle Eastern nations, according to Ukrainian industry publication ProAgro.
The alleged theft is significant in scope. Last week, Taras Vysotskiy, Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister, reported that roughly 440,000 tonnes of grain had been seized from the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia districts.
Last Monday, Josef Schmidhuber of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that there is “anecdotal evidence” of Russian forces “looting the storage grain that is accessible,” as well as demolishing storage facilities and taking farm equipment.
“I personally hear this from many silo owners in the occupied territory. This is outright robbery. And this is happening everywhere in occupied territory,” Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskiy asserted last month.
Dmitry Peskov, a Russian government spokesman, denied that Russian forces are stealing grain from Ukraine. Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin went even further in a social media post on Wednesday, falsely accusing the US of the same crime.
“Washington has no confidence that Kiev will win. They have been thinking up ways of recovering their funds, while setting the stage for a famine in Ukraine,” Volodin claimed something without proving it. The state-owned television channel Rossiya-1, which was recently sanctioned by the US government for its role in the invasion, has started airing identical assertions to its Russian viewers.
During a previous period of Russian administration in Ukraine, in the early 1930s, Soviet forces carried out a systematic policy of removing and limiting access to food, resulting in a man-made famine that killed an estimated 3.5 to 5 million people.