Ukraine has summoned the Turkish ambassador after it said Turkey had allowed a Russian-flagged ship carrying what it has claimed was thousands of tonnes of stolen Ukrainian grain to leave its port in Karasu.
“We regret that Russia’s ship Zhibek Zholy, which was full of stolen Ukrainian grain, was allowed to leave Karasu port despite criminal evidence presented to the Turkish authorities,” said the foreign ministry spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko.
“Turkey’s ambassador in Kyiv will be invited to Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs to clarify this unacceptable situation.”
Turkish customs officials had seized the vessel at Ukraine’s request on Tuesday, after Kyiv claimed the cargo was illegally transporting 7,000 tonnes of grain out of Russian-occupied Berdyansk, a Ukrainian port in the south-east of the country.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed that the ship was Russian-flagged, but appeared to muddy the waters while claiming the Kremlin was seeking clarity.
“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,” Lavrov told reporters on Monday.
Kyiv has accused Russia of stealing over 600,000 tonnes of grain from occupied Ukrainian territories to sell on international markets. The country’s grain exports are responsible for almost 15% of the world’s total.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and its control of the exit routes to the Black Sea of the country’s grain has sparked a global food crisis that risks pushing the worst-hit countries into widespread famine.
Turkey, with its Bosphorus strait, is a key transit route for shipping out of the Black Sea. Ukraine has sought to put pressure on Ankara to stop Russian shipments of its grain, a vital source of revenue.