Satellite images show Russian ships with ‘stolen Ukrainian grain’

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Two Russian carrier ships have been spotted loading up mounds of grain in Ukraine, as global food supplies has been threatened by Moscow’s invasion.

Fresh satellite images from 19 and 21 May show two Russian-flagged bulk carrier ships — the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka — docked at Sevastopol port, Crimea, and loading on grain silos off of a platform.

There is growing concern that the war could cause major problems for world food supplies. Last week, the UN warned of a global crisis with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres claiming food insecurity was rising in the world’s poorer countries because of higher prices due to the war.

The risk of famine has also increased. The conflict has cut off Ukraine’s ports, which once exported vast amounts of cooking oil as well as cereals such as maize and wheat. Ukraine and Russia produce some 30 per cent of the world’s wheat supply.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has alleged that Russian soldiers are “gradually stealing” several hundred thousand tonnes of grain and trying to sell it off.

“New satellite images from ‘Maxar Technologies’ show stolen Ukrainian grain being loaded on Russian ships in Crimea. There are two ships under the flag of Russia, docked and loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain in the port of the temporarily occupied Sevastopol,” said Ukrainian ministry’s Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security.

Watch: Global food shortages due to Russia's invasion 'could cause more deaths than war itself'

The ships have now left the port with the former en route to Beirut via the Aegean Sea, while the Matros Koshka is still seen in the Black Sea, the ship tracking site showed.

It is not immediately clear if the ships are engaging in transportation of grain stolen from Ukraine but the annexed Crimean territory does not boast of heavy production of grain unlike other parts in the north of Ukraine like Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Authorities and industry sources aware of the matter have said that Russian forces in the controlled territories have emptied several silos of grain and sent it to the southern region, the report added.

President Zelensky had urged the international community to help the besieged country in unblocking its seaports.

“The world community must help Ukraine unblock 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 all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food - our grain, barley, sunflower and more among a lot of things”.

Russia’s naval operations have wrested control and access to the northwestern Black Sea and the Sea of Azov from the time it invaded Ukraine on 24 February, bringing trade and shipping in the area to a grinding halt.

Experts have warned that the wheat production is now expected to be halved this year. US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who accused Moscow of weaponsing food and holding grain for millions of people hostage in its course of invading Ukraine, said that there is an estimated 22 million tons of grain sitting in Ukrainian silos.

However, Moscow has denied the allegations of grain theft.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, had previously termed the reports of Russia stealing grain as “fake news”, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.

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