Zhibek Zholy: The Russian ship carrying ‘stolen’ Ukrainian grain

As well as fighting on battlefields in Ukraine, Moscow and Kyiv are locked in a conflict over the Zhibek Zholy, a Russian cargo ship.

Kyiv and several analysts say the ship docked in the Russia-occupied port Berdyansk, in Zaporizhia, in late June and sailed towards Turkey carrying thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain.

Moscow-backed news channels celebrated what they called the first voyage of a commercial ship from the “liberated” port. While Zhibek Zholy may be the first to sail from Berdyansk since the war began, reports suggest other Russian ships have left other Ukrainian ports before, also carrying contested grain.

According to Ukraine, Turkey detained the Zhibek Zholy near its port, Karasu, on July 3 and the Turkish foreign ministry said it was investigating Ukraine’s claims over the grain.

But the ship left the Turkish port area late on Wednesday, upsetting a Ukrainian official who said the Zhibek Zholy was allowed to leave “despite criminal evidence presented to Turkish authorities”.

Russia on Wednesday denied wrongdoing and even dismissed reports that the cargo ship had been detained at all, with a foreign ministry spokesperson in Moscow saying the Zhibek Zholy was “undergoing standard procedures”.The dispute has highlighted global fears of a food crisis; Russia’s war on Ukraine, a leading wheat producer, has seen exports halted and growing accusations that Moscow is stealing its neighbour’s soft commodities.

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