Ukraine has summoned the Turkish ambassador after it said Turkey had allowed a Russian-flagged ship carrying thousands of tons of stolen Ukrainian grain to leave the port of Karasu.
“We regret that the Russian ship Zhibek Zholy, which was loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain, was allowed to leave the port of Karasu despite criminal evidence presented to the Turkish authorities,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko. “The Turkish ambassador in Kiev will be invited to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry to clarify this unacceptable situation.”
Turkish customs officials seized the ship on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request after Kiev said the cargo was illegally carrying 7,000 tons of grain from Russian-occupied Berdiansk, a port in southeastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed the ship was flying a Russian flag but appeared to be clouding the waters, saying the Kremlin was seeking clarity. “The ship actually flies under the Russian flag, but I think it belongs to Kazakhstan and the cargo was transported under a contract between Estonia and Turkey,” Lavrov told reporters on Monday.
Kiev has accused Russia of stealing more than 600,000 tons of grain from occupied Ukrainian territories to sell in international markets. Ukraine’s grain exports are responsible for nearly 15% of the world’s total.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and Moscow’s control of the Black Sea exit routes for Ukrainian grain have sparked a global food crisis that threatens to send the worst-affected countries into famine.
Turkey, with its Bosphorus Strait, is an important transit route for shipping from the Black Sea. Ukraine has tried to pressure Ankara to stop Russian shipments of its grain, a vital source of income.