Turkey has begun an investigation into the origin of grain aboard a Russian ship anchored off its Black Sea port of Karasu after Ukraine said the cargo was stolen, senior Turkish officials told Bloomberg.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara Vasyl Bodnar said on Friday that his country had urged Turkey to “take necessary actions” over the “Zhibek Zholy,” which left Russian-occupied Berdyansk with some 7,000 tons of grain on board.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from territories it has occupied since its February 24 invasion. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Monday the vessel was Russian but said Moscow was still working to clarify what had happened.
“The ship really is Russian-flagged but I think it belongs to Kazakhstan and the cargo was being carried on a contract between Estonia and Turkey,” he told reporters.
The vessel has yet to dock or unload and is waiting off the port as Turkey investigates the origin and trajectory of the shipment, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity of the case.
Turkey is handling the situation with care as it works to arrange four-way talks with the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine to establish a Black Sea corridor to restart Ukrainian food shipments disrupted by the war, one of the officials said. It may host the UN-backed dialogue as early as next week, he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week his country had about 20 ships in the region ready to transport the grain on Ukraine’s behalf once an agreement is reached. “We will try to carry these products and re-export them to third countries,” he said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is holding up grain shipments relied on by developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. World leaders are attempting to avert food shortages that could lead to increasing political unrest across the globe as trade disruptions have sent costs for crops, fuel and fertilizer soaring and food prices rise at the fastest clip ever.
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