Stolen Ukrainian wheat sold by Russia to Syria: reports
Some of the wheat confiscated from Ukrainian farmers by occupying Russian troops has been sold to Syria, French media Franceinfo revealed in an investigation on Saturday.
Ukraine has long accused Russia of stealing its wheat since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Over the past two months, commercial activities have markedly increased in the harbour of Sebastopol, located on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula. According to the SeaKrime project, an Ukrainian investigative project, the port's cereal terminal exported over 102,000 tons of cereals in April and 109,800 in May - compared to 40,000 per month on average before the war.
Observers have tied these skyrocketing exports to stolen Ukrainian wheat, based on the testimonies of Ukrainian farmers who reported their harvest was confiscated by Russian troops.
Since the invasion, at least ten vessels thought to carry the cereals left Sebastopol.
Ukraine thanked Egypt last month for turning away a Russian ship loaded with grain which it said had been stolen. Egypt is among the largest importers of wheat worldwide but shipments have been disrupted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Days later, Franceinfo reports, the same ship - the Matros Pozynich - was spotted unloading in the port of Lattakia in government-held Syria.
Syria has been struggling with recurrent wheat shortages over the past few years, owing both to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure during the ongoing civil war and international sanctions against the Syrian regime. Shortages of bread, which is a local staple, have provoked protests and tensions in government-held areas.
Russia has traditionally been a provider of last resort to ensure Syrian silos did not run empty.
Asked in April about allegations that Russia had stolen Ukrainian grain, the Kremlin denied that was the case and said it did not know where the information came from.