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Russian Media Confirms Extraction of Grain, Steel From Ukraine's Ports

isvestia ukraine
State-controlled Russian media have provided evidence of the extraction of Ukrainian rolled steel (background) from the port of Mariupol and its transport to Russia (Fair use)

Published May 30, 2022 9:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

Russia has admitted to taking grain and steel cargoes from Ukraine and removing them to Russian territory, confirming Ukrainian accusations of theft. 

The Russian military recently finished clearing sea mines from the port of Mariupol, the decimated port city that fell to the invading force earlier this month. In addition to the installation of mass graves on the city's outskirts, Russia has begun restoring commercial trafic at the seaport, beginning with the removal of Ukrainian steel products. 

Russian state outlet TASS reported Monday that an initial cargo of 2,700 tonnes of Ukrainian steel would be shipped some 100 miles from Mariupol to the Russian port of Rostov-on-Don. No commercial transaction or payment for the cargo was mentioned; the nearest producer, Mariupol's massive Azovstal plant, was destroyed and seized after a monthslong siege. 

Metinvest, the Ukrainian owner and operator of Azovstal, has accused Russian forces of stealing its products from the seaport. 

"On the first day of the war, metallurgical products produced at Metinvest Group’s Azovstal and Ilyich Steel iron and steel plants were in the port of Mariupol," the firm said. "The illegal actions to seize and resume the operations of the Mariupol port clearly indicate that these steel products may be exported by the occupiers to the ports of Rostov, Taganrog, Novorossiysk, Tuapse and occupied Sevastopol for the further illegal sale of the stolen products to countries of Africa and Asia that do not support the sanctions regimes [against Russia]."

"Looting in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine continues," noted Ukraine's human rights ombudsman, Lyudmyla Denisova. "Following the theft of Ukrainian grain, the occupiers resorted to exporting metal products from Mariupol."

Denisova accused Russian forces of violating the Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by taking the property of civilians in an occupied area. 

In addition, a collaborator in Russian-controlled Kherson confirmed to Russian state media that Ukrainian grain "exports" to Russia are under way, and will soon include sunflower seeds as well.

"We have space to store [the new crop] although we have a lot of grain here," said Kirill Stremousov, a pro-Russian blogger who has been appointed deputy head of the occupying force's Military-Civilian Administration. "People are now partially taking [the grain] out, having agreed with those who buy it from the Russian side."

Ukraine's government has accused Russia of stealing grain on a mass scale, destroying granaries, absconding with farm equipment and blocking the export of legitimate food shipments. 

"In our occupied territory, the Russian occupiers have already stolen at least half a million tons of grain and are now looking for ways to sell them somewhere illegally," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a social media appeal on Monday.