Stealing grain, destroying farms and blocking ports… Russian forces did not hand over the Ukrainian granary

“A particularly abhorrent way of waging war.” On Friday, May 13, the German Minister of Agriculture condemned the theft of Russian forces and the confiscation of their land “Cargo and grain of eastern Ukraine”. While the silos are full of grain and the next wheat harvest is expected within two months, Kyiv has been accusing the invader for several weeks of getting their hands on the crops, and then trying to export them on their own.

At this point, Kyiv claims that Russian forces have About 500,000 tons of grain worth $100 million were looted.says a press release (in Ukrainian). “Tens of thousands of tons of sunflower oil were illegally exported.” Josef Schmidhuber, a senior official with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), gave an estimate of 700,000 tons, while agreeing that there was no statistical data yet.

Kyiv condemns theft of grain

Russian ship Matros Bozinic An anchor was shot down near the occupied Crimea on April 27, according to information published by the American channel CNN (in English)In order to recover the grain that was brought from the war zones to the north. The crew deactivated the transponder, which prevented the geolocation of the bulk carrier, which the satellite saw the next day, in the port of Sevastopol. Then it crossed the Bosphorus to reach the Egyptian port of Alexandria, but the shipment was refused after an ultimatum issued by the Ukrainian diplomat. After another failure in Beirut (Lebanon), a Matros Bozinic Headed to the Syrian port of Latakia.

From Syria,Grain can be smuggled to other countries in the Middle East.”, and estimates the Ukrainian internal intelligence, which calls at least three ships involved in this movement. And “Countries are ready to buy these pills covered in Ukrainian blood”Denis Marchuk, deputy head of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, continues.

The regions of Zaporizhia and Kherson – as well as areas under Russian control – are the hardest hit. Thus, Kyiv accuses Russia of loading 1,500 tons of grain in trucks that headed towards the Crimea. The images show a line of trucks flowing with the letter “Z” heading south. Russian troops also plundered the grain storage center in Novoleksevsky, Kherson region, and exported grain to the Crimea, writes Lyudmila Denisova. (in Ukrainian), responsible for human rights in Parliament. Ukrainian media reports several other issues.

Agricultural machinery was also stolen. Some have even been geolocated in Chechnya thanks to GPS signals, an entrepreneur from Melitopol told CNN. (in English). The latter says he managed to lock them both remotely. All such acts of theft are now registered by the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, in order to lay a foundation and obtain compensation before the courts.

The raids targeted farms

But grain production also suffered from the Russian strikes. A grain complex was destroyed in early April in Rubezny, in the Luhansk region, accusing the local governor, Sergei Godich. “All agricultural products stored there were destroyed: 17,000 tons of wheat and 8,500 tons of sunflowers.”. A grain elevator was also hit by a missile in early May in Sinelnikovo, Dnipropetrovsk region, according to local governor Valentin Reznichenko. By the end of March, at least six grain storage facilities had been damaged in the east of the country, according to two US government photos seen by Reuters*.

‘We hit the Russians a few times’, also explains Volodymyr Reva, director of an agricultural project with an area of ​​3,500 hectares in the Kharkiv region. A sniper shot one of the employees, according to his testimony, and the monsters were released so as not to endanger more people. The company first distributed flour to the population, but now it does not know what to do with the grain stocks, which cannot be sold due to damage to the infrastructure. Only ten employees remained, compared to 100 before the war, according to this testimony, which could not be independently verified.

From now on, demining constitutes exploitations ‘A very big and very urgent problem’. Volodymyr Riva had five missiles on his farm and the deminers were still unable to reach the area at the time of his intervention. “The areas recently liberated from occupation (Sumy, Kyiv, Chernihiv) have a lot of ammunition in the fields ”explains Dennis Marchouk. “The occupiers have deliberately destroyed the property of agricultural enterprises. That is why the sowing process is much slower there, because soldiers and experts must come first and clear the land.”

Port blocking makes it difficult to export

The Russian army established a total blockade of the Ukrainian coast, depriving the ports of Odessa and Mykolaiv, as well as the river port of Kherson, of any outlet. As a result, Ukraine is trying to move its production by land, through 13 border crossings with Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova. In a more marginal way, it also uses the waterway by taking the Danube (the ports of Ust-Dunaysk, Izmaïl, Reni and Kiliya).

The port of Odessa, here on March 26, 2022, has been at a standstill since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (Fiora Garenzi / Hans Lucas)

But these alternative solutions are not enough: about 24,000 wheat and oil wagons are currently banned, explained on the franceinfo website Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesman for the European Transport Commission. The route scale is not the same between Ukraine and Europe, and the necessary transshipments are long and expensive. A total of 25 million tons of food are waiting to leave the country before July, in anticipation of the next harvest. ‘It’s a big challenge’Adalbert Jahnz adds: A 600-meter long train transports about 1,900 tons of grain.

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Despite the increase in speed, grain carts already had an average waiting time of sixteen days at the end of April, according to an industry professional cited by APK-Inform. (in Ukrainian). “The European transport system and transshipment capabilities in Europe will not allow 70 million tons of Ukrainian grain to be transported annually by land”, summarizes Valery Tkachev. Instead, the land’s maximum capacity is estimated at 1.1 million tons of grain per month and 250,000 tons of sunflower oil, according to Roman Slastun, general manager of the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club. Ukraine is in a dead end, admits its president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Russia has closed all trade routes and we cannot export our wheat. They occupy our ports and export our goods,” he added.

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine

On Fox News

So the head of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel the embargo on Odessa and other ports in Ukraine. “Millions of people will die around the world because these ports are closed.”He said at a conference in New York, according to statements reported by CNN*. According to Politico*, some elected Americans are also calling on US President Joe Biden to create a humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea, in order to bypass the Russian blockade.

Storage capacity reached

Time is running out before the next harvest. “We have more than 20 million tons of unsold goods, and only 1 million tons were exported in April”Denis Marchuk explains in an interview with the Lithuanian channel LRT (in Ukrainian). “In two months we will start the winter harvest cycle. Our warehouses are full.”

A wheat warehouse in the western Ukrainian village of Loki.  (Nariman Al-Mufti/AFP/Siba)

“We still have one and a half to two months to increase exports while finding opportunities to stockpile these crops.”

Denis Marchuk, Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Agricultural Council

In the Lithuanian channel LRT

The total storage capacity of Ukraine is 75 million tons, according to the specialized company APK-Inform * – 61 million tons, excluding conflict areas. Therefore, the upcoming harvest is likely to be disrupted due to a shortage of grain stocks. If exports do not rebound again, about 20% of planted areas will not be able to be harvested this summer, estimates Jacob Kern, the World Food Program’s emergency coordinator in Ukraine. This may increase tensions in the markets, leading to an increase in the prices of many products.

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