Ukraine Says Russian Occupiers Are Stealing Grain

Satellite photos suggest some of it is being sent to Syria
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 2:35 PM CDT
Ukraine Says Russia Is Stealing, Exporting Grain
Harbor cranes are seen at the trade port in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, the day of the Russian invasion.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

(Newser) – Stealing grain can be added to the long list of crimes committed by Russian forces occupying parts of Ukraine, Ukrainian officials say. According to officials in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian trucks loaded with Ukrainian grain and other produce left an occupied town Tuesday, heading for Crimea, which has been under Russian control since 2014, the Wall Street Journal reports. Authorities say the theft was part of a systematic campaign to steal grain from areas of southern and eastern Ukraine that helped the country become known as the "breadbasket of the world," reports the Washington Post.

Taras Vysotskiy, Ukraine's deputy agriculture minister, said last week that Russia had exported more than 440,000 tons of grain from the occupied Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions. Vysotskiy said that with around 30 million tons of grain in storage, Ukraine has enough to feed people in areas its government still controls, but the situation in occupied areas is unclear. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said some countries had been making "backroom deals" to buy stolen Ukrainian grain from Russia. Satellite photos showeda Russian ship suspected of carrying Ukrainian grain docked in Syria Tuesday, the AP reports.

The Russian-flagged bulk carrier turned off its transponders almost a week ago. Zelensky says Russia's blockade of Black Sea ports is preventing the country from exporting grain, though some is getting out by train. Authorities warn that blocking Ukrainian exports could lead to food shortages in Egypt, Pakistan, and other countries that rely heavily on Ukrainian wheat. Authorities in Ukraine and Germany say Russia has been deliberately targeting the country's grain infrastructure, possibly as part of an effort to starve the population or eliminate it as an export competitor, the Post reports. (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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