Ukraine accuses Russia of “stealing” grain.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of stealing its grain and taking it aboard ships in Crimea, but the Kremlin denies it, calling it fake news.

“New satellite images from Maxar Technologies show grain stolen from Ukraine being loaded onto Russian cargo ships in the Crimean port of Sevastopol,” the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security of Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy announced on May 24.

The agency attached satellite photos taken on May 19 and 21 showing two Russian-flagged ships moored in the port of Sevastopol, Matros Pozynich and Matros Koshka. These two ships receive grain from the warehouse in the port via a special delivery system.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia stole Ukrainian grain, calling it fake news, but gave no further details.

Grain is loaded onto the Russian ship Matros Pozynich in Sevastopol on May 19.  Photo: Maxar.

Grain is loaded onto the Russian ship Matros Pozynich in Sevastopol on May 19. Picture: Maxar.

The MarineTraffic site reported that these two ships left the port of Sevastopol. The Matros Pozynich sails through the Aegean to Beirut, while the Matros Koshka is in the Black Sea.

It is not clear whether the two ships were transporting grain, which Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing. However, the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, does not have the same large grain production as Ukraine’s Kherson and Zaporizhia provinces.

The ship Matros Koshka docked in the port of Sevastopol on May 21.  Photo: Maxar.

The ship Matros Koshka docked in the port of Sevastopol on May 21. Picture: Maxar.

Ukrainian officials believe Russian and Separatist forces have offloaded grain from several grain depots in the area they control and moved it south to the Crimean peninsula.

Russian Senator Andrey Turchak announced on May 6 that the country would “provide logistical support for the transportation of grain and agricultural products, the famous commodities of the Kherson province.”

The allegations were made by Ukraine in the context of growing UN concerns that the war in the country could endanger the world’s food supply. The conflict has also halted operations at Ukrainian ports, which used to export large quantities of cooking oil and grains such as corn and wheat.

Russia and Ukraine produce about 30% of the world’s wheat. According to experts, global wheat production is expected to halve this year due to conflicts.

Location of the city of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula.  Graphic: Washington Post.

Location of the city of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula. Graphic: Washington Post.

Nguyen Tien (Corresponding Iindependently)