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Controversial grain ship returns to Russia from Turkey

#Controversial #grain #ship #returns #Russia #Turkey

A controversial cargo ship carrying grain allegedly stolen from Ukraine has returned to Russian territorial waters, a Turkish source told AFP on Thursday, drawing angry condemnations from Kyiv.

Website showed Zhibek Zholy moving at least 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Turkey’s Black Sea port of Karasu before apparently turning off his transponder and disappearing from sight.

A Turkish source said the ship has reached Russian territorial waters but is not yet docked in port.

Kyiv claims the 7,000-ton vessel left the Ukrainian Kremlin-held port of Berdyansk after picking up confiscated wheat.

Ukraine has asked Turkey to seize the ship and return the allegedly stolen wheat.

But Russia claims it has “nationalized” Ukrainian state assets and is buying grain from local farmers.

NATO member Turkey has tried to negotiate a solution that could maintain its good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv.

It wasn’t immediately clear what had happened to the wheat.

An unnamed crew member of the Zhibek Zholy told the Russian news agency TASS that the ship intends to offload the grain to another ship to “not lose money”.

But the Turkish source said the ship appears to still be carrying grain.

“As far as we know, it’s waiting loaded,” the Turkish source said.

– ‘Deeply disappointed’ –

Ankara has not made an official statement about the Zhibek Zholy since arriving in Karasu last Friday.

But Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned Turkey’s ambassador to demand an explanation for the ship’s apparent release.

“In defiance of an appeal by Ukraine, the ship was released on the evening of July 6,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It was “deeply disappointed” that Turkey had not complied with its request to confiscate the ship.

“We regret that Russia’s ship Zhibek Zholy, full of stolen Ukrainian grain, was allowed to leave the port of Karasu despite criminal evidence being presented to the Turkish authorities,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Twitter.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month Ankara is investigating reports of Ukrainian grain confiscated by Russia reaching the Black Sea coast.

But he added that Turkey could not find any stolen Ukrainian grain shipments.

Turkey’s reluctance underscores the difficulty of its position in the war.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a tumultuous but close working relationship with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

He has tried to use this access to push Turkey into the middle of diplomatic negotiations and talks about resuming grain shipments from Ukrainian ports.

But its relations with Russia are complicated by Turkey’s international obligations as a member of the NATO defense bloc.

Ankara also supplies Ukraine with combat drones, which have proven effective in slowing Russia’s advance through the Donbass war zone.

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#Controversial #grain #ship #returns #Russia #Turkey

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