Ukraine has accused Moscow of stealing grain from territories occupied by Russia since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in late February. The war could lead to serious food shortages globally as Russia and Ukraine account for about 29 percent of world wheat exports.
Vladimir Rogov, a representative of the Russian-imposed government in the Zaporizhia region, said grain was also being sold to Middle Eastern and African countries. "They are afraid of sanctions, but they still buy our grain with joy - of course, through intermediaries and schemes," Rogov told Russian television, RIA reports.
Rogov said that in the part of the Zaporizhia area under Russian control, there are 1.5 million tons of cereals, RIA adds. Last week, Ukraine's embassy in Beirut said Russia had sent about 100,000 tonnes of stolen wheat to its ally Syria, what the Ukrainian embassy called "criminal activities"
Russia has occupied large parts of Ukraine's coast, blocking agricultural exports and raising grain prices. Russia, on the other hand, blames sanctions on the food crisis for restricting its grain exports.
What does Russia say?
The Kremlin has denied Ukraine’s allegations, saying it did not know where the information was coming from.
On Wednesday, during a visit to Ankara, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was confronted about this issue by a Ukrainian journalist during a press conference. “I am from Ukrainian public television, I absolutely want to ask a question!” he said.
“Apart from cereals, what other goods did you steal from Ukraine and who did you sell them to?” the journalist asked. With a smile, Lavrov responded: “We are not obstructing the grain. In order for it to leave the ports, Mr Zelenskyy must give the order, that’s all,” he added.
According to Russia’s government, the onus of de-mining ports prior to resuming grain shipments fell on Kyiv and they have blamed Zelenskyy for “categorically” refusing to resolve the problem.