Turkey detains Russian ship Ukraine says is full of stolen grain in part of Putin's plan to use starvation as a weapon

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Turkey detains Russian ship Ukraine says is full of stolen grain in part of Putin's plan to use starvation as a weapon
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Russian-flagged cargo ship Zhibek Zholy is seen off the coast of Black Sea port of Karasu, Turkey, July 3, 2022
Russian-flagged cargo ship Zhibek Zholy is seen off the coast of Black Sea port of Karasu, Turkey, July 3, 2022Mehmet Emin Caliskan/Reuters
  • The Russian ship Zhibek Zholy carrying 7,000 tons of grain was detained Monday by Turkey.

  • Ukraine wants it arrested, saying the grain onboard was stolen in a geopolitical gambit.

  • Ukraine has accused Putin of blocking food exports and redeploying them to further his war aims.

Turkish authorities detained a Russian ship carrying grain stolen from Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said.

Anton Geraschenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian government, discussed the move in a Monday Telegram post, citing Ukraine's ambassador to Turkey.

He said Ukraine would like to see the ship Zhibek Zholy arrested and the grain confiscated.

As of Monday afternoon local time, ship-tracking website Marine Traffic showed the Zhibek Zholy at anchor around 1km off the port of Karasu on the Black Sea, a position it has held since Friday, Politico reported.

It picked up the grain from the port of Berdansk in Zaporizhzhya, a Ukrainian region occupied by Russia, the ambassador told Reuters.

Russian authorities there hailed it as "the first commercial ship" to leave the region since the war, a claim which experts derided as a "farce," Politico reported.  Their conclusion was that cargo — 7,000 tons of grain — was likely stolen.

The accusation of theft by Ukraine is the latest step in what officials in the country — as well as its Western allies — have termed a deliberate attempt by Russia's President Vladimir Putin to selectively starve the world by blocking and redeploying Ukrainian food exports.

Since Russia invaded, exports have largely halted, depriving many nations in North Africa and the Middle East of staple foods for which they rely on from Ukrainian agriculture.

On June 23, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that Putin was "weaponizing hunger" as a "callous tool of war."

Putin has denied widespread accusations that his ships are both blockading Ukrainian grain and also stealing it to be shipped by Russia.

He argued on June 30 that western sanctions on Russia, not its own actions in the war, were at the root of the crisis hitting global food markets, Reuters reported.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing from farmers in occupied territory for weeks, and analysts have said Russia is indeed strategically weaponizing of the food supply, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

As of early May, Ukraine's Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy said that Putin's forces had exported 441,000 tons of likely stolen grain from four occupied regions, The Washington Post reported.

Turkey has so far refused to join sanctions on Russia, positioning itself as a peace broker. It has allowed the nation's oligarchs to shelter their mega-yachts — a high-profile sanctions target — in its waters.

However, last week the country dropped its former objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, a move that was likely to displease the Kremlin, which opposes NATO expanding to include nearby countries.

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