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Ukraine says Turkey releases Russian-flagged ship carrying ‘Ukrainian grain’

This aerial picture shows a Russian-flagged cargo ship "Zhibek Zholy" anchored on July 5, 2022, at black sea coast of Karasu district in Sakarya. (Photo by AFP)

Ukraine says Turkey has released a recently-detained Russian-flagged cargo ship carrying “Ukrainian grain”, as Kiev constantly accuses Moscow of stealing Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports of the ex-Soviet country.   

Ukraine’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Thursday that Turkish authorities had released the Zhibek Zholy cargo ship, after Refinitiv ship tracking data showed the vessel sailed from Turkey's northwestern port of Karasu late on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Turkey claimed on Ukrainian national television on Sunday that Turkish had detained the ship outside of Turkey’s Red Sea port of Karasu near the Bosphorus Strait, stressing that Kiev enjoyed Ankara's full co-operation.

Kiev had previously asked Turkey to detain the vessel, according to documents seen by Reuters.

“Ignoring the appeal of the Ukrainian side, the ship was released on the evening of July 6,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in its statement on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials earlier said that 4,500 tons of grain was seized from the port city of Berdyansk in the southeastern province of Zaporizhzhia, which is under the control of Russia at present.

“The Ukrainian side received the mentioned information with deep disappointment and appeals to the Turkish side with an urgent request to conduct an investigation into the mentioned situation and provide a comprehensive answer to the requests of the relevant authorities of Ukraine, as well as to prevent similar cases in the future by all means,” the ministry added.

Moreover, Kiev summoned the Turkish ambassador to Ukraine to provide an explanation, the statement further said, adding that it was “unacceptable” for the vessel to have been allowed to leave.

“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," Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko claimed on Twitter.

This is while Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday dismissed as false reports that the Zhibek Zholy cargo ship had been detained by Turkey.

On Thursday, Russia's TASS news agency, citing the ship's crew, also said that the vessel planned to offload grain on to “a storage vessel” after leaving anchorage near a Turkish port.

Ukrainian officials told Middle East Eye on Thursday that they believed the ship was likely to have sailed for Russia or to the seized Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk, which is where it came from.

Refinitiv showed Zhibek Zholy’s destination to be Russia's port of Kavkaz, with an estimated arrival date of Friday.

Ukraine claims Russia is stealing its grain from seized Ukrainian territories. Moscow has previously denied that Russia has stolen any Ukrainian grain.

Turkey, a NATO member state, shares a sea border with both Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea. Ankara has offered its services to accompany maritime convoys from Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine, one of the world's biggest exporters of grain, has not been able to export the commodity since the onset of the conflict in the country in late February. Kiev and the West accuse Russia of creating the risk of global famine by shutting Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

The West has also accused Russia of blocking Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea.

Russia, however, says no action was required on the Russian side because it had already made the necessary commitments to solve the problem.

Moscow has also denied responsibility for the international food crisis, blaming Western sanctions.

Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

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