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In mid-May, the United States sent an alert to 14 countries, mostly in Africa, that Russian cargo vessels were leaving ports near Ukraine laden with what a State Department cable described as "stolen Ukrainian grain." The cable identified by name three Russian cargo vessels it said were suspected of transporting it.
Ukrainian officials said the solution to Africa's food problem is greater global pressure to end the war, not purchases of looted grain. There is a "simple answer," Taras Vysotsky, Ukraine's deputy minister of agriculture, said: "Stop the fighting." Vysotsky and other Ukrainian ministers have been accusing Russia for months of stealing grain from the territories it occupies in the country's southern breadbasket, described by one as "outright robbery." Much of it has been taken from storage elevators in occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions, they say.
In the past month, the three Russian vessels identified in the State Department cable as suspected carriers of stolen Ukrainian grain -- the Matros Koshka, Matros Pozynich and Mikhail Nenashev -- traveled between the Straits of Kerch, which divide Crimea and Russia, and various ports in the eastern Mediterranean. ... Two U.S. officials confirmed the contents of the cable, which was sent May 16 to 14 countries, mostly in northern and eastern Africa, as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Turkey.(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.)Determining the provenance of a grain shipment is not straightforward, but one indication might be if Russia were selling it at a heavy discount, one U.S. official said.
Turkey is a focus of the efforts to track stolen Ukrainian grain because Russian vessels leaving Crimea usually pass through Turkish waters. On Friday, Ukraine's ambassador to Turkey called on the authorities to investigate the source of Russian-transported grain. A spokesperson for Turkey's Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
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