Russia has sent its ally Syria an estimated 100,000 tonnes of wheat stolen from Ukraine since invading the country, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said, describing the shipments as “criminal activity”, Reuters reports.
In a statement to Reuters, the embassy said the shipments included one aboard the Matros Pozynich, a Russian-flagged vessel which docked at Syria’s main sea port Latakia in late May.
Data from Refinitiv showed the Matros Pozynich loading wheat at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 – with a May 19 departure date and the discharge location given as Syria.
Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC on May 29 showed the same vessel docked in Latakia.
Ukraine’s embassy in Lebanon, citing Ukrainian law enforcement, alleged the grain aboard the Matros Pozynich had been “stolen” from Ukrainian storage facilities in areas newly occupied by Russian forces.
Russia’s defence ministry and the Syrian information ministry did not immediately reply to Reuters’ requests for comment. Russia has previously denied allegations of stealing wheat from Ukraine.
“The wheat is stolen from a facility that combines wheat from three Ukrainian regions into one batch,” the embassy said.
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“This is criminal activity,” it said, adding that it had tried to reach out to the Syrian authorities but had never received a response.
The embassy said more than 100,000 tonnes of “plundered” Ukrainian wheat had arrived in Syria over the last three months. With international wheat prices above $400 a tonne, such a volume would be worth more than $40 million.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the Ukrainian allegations.
Syria’s information ministry did not immediately respond to emailed questions from Reuters seeking comment on the accusation the country had received 100,000 tonnes of stolen Ukrainian wheat, and that the deliveries amounted to criminal activity.
Neither did it respond to a question on whether Syria had failed to answer Ukrainian correspondence on the issue.
The Syrian agriculture ministry and officials at the Latakia port did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Russia has been an important source of wheat imports for Syria since the start of its civil war in 2011, both as commercial imports and humanitarian aid. Moscow has also provided President Bashar al-Assad with vital military support during the conflict, sending its air force to Syria in 2015.
Russia pledged to supply Syria with one million tonnes of wheat under a bilateral deal in 2021, according to Interfax. Syrian grain imports have included shipments from Crimea.
The Matros Pozynich had initially set its destination for Beirut, Lebanon, but turned its transponder off on May 25 off the Lebanese coast, according to Refinitiv ship tracking data.
On Wednesday, the ship turned its transponder back on and could be tracked sailing west, away from the Syrian coast, according to movements shown by MarineTraffic.com.