Ukrainian embassy makes an attractive offer to Lebanon for grain shipment stolen by Russia

syrian-ship-with-stolen-grain
Laodicea , a A Syrian ship under U.S. sanctions has docked in the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli carrying barley and wheat that the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut told Reuters on Thursday had been stolen by Russia from Ukrainian stores. July 29, 2022
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The Ukrainian Embassy in Lebanon announced, in a statement on its account via “Twitter”, that “in agreement with the owners of the products in Ukraine which are on board the Laodicea ship, and with the aim of avoiding corruption of the stolen grain and in order to keep it in Lebanon, the Embassy of Ukraine submitted an offer to the Lebanese government to purchase the aforementioned products at the following prices:

Wheat flour $350 per ton,

Barley $180 per ton,

The prices are two times lower than market prices, ”the embassy claimed in its offer

This offer comes after a judge last Friday ordered the seizure of Laodicea a cargo ship docked at Tripoli in northern Lebanon carrying 5,000 tons of flour allegedly stolen from Ukraine by Russia.

The vessel is Syrian, and subject to US sanctions. The cargo is owned by Loyal Agro, a grains trading company in Turkey, which said it had provided Lebanese customs with documentation showing the source of the cargo was legitimate.

However, the Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut said the vessel was “carrying 5,000 tons of barley and 5,000 tons of flour that we suspect was taken from Ukrainian stores.” It said a judge in Ukraine had issued a ruling to seize the vessel and the cargo after an investigation.

A Loyal Agro spokesman said the cargo had initially been destined for Syria but the company decided to offload 5,000 tons of flour in Lebanon because of bread shortages there. He said flour could be sold for up to $650 a ton in Lebanon, compared with $600 in Syria.

Bakeries in Lebanon were inundated this week by frustrated crowds in a country where about half the population is food insecure.

Lebanon used to import most of its wheat from Ukraine, but shipments have been disrupted by Russia’s invasion and blockade of the main Black Sea ports.

Nasser Yassin, Lebanon’s caretaker environment minister, said: “Lebanon respects international laws. The ship said to be stolen from Ukraine and docked in Tripoli has not been offloaded.”

He said the matter was being looked into by the Lebanese ministers of economy and public works.

Some Lebanese observers fear certain parties may take advantage of the economic and political chaos in Lebanon to smuggle goods into Syria and circumvent US sanctions, especially following claims that the Laodicea belonged to the Syrian General Directorate of Ports.

A Lebanese Economy Ministry was quoted last week as telling Arab News: “Importing wheat or flour from abroad doesn’t require the approval of the ministry unless it was subsidized by the central bank.

“Other than that, private companies and mills have the right to freely import wheat or flour, provided that the Lebanese customs check the legitimacy of the importation.”

Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib said Lebanese authorities had not yet been able to “determine the source of the flour and barley carried by the ship.”

He said Lebanon had “received a number of complaints and warnings from a number of Western countries” following the docking of the ship.

Ukraine urges Lebanon to block Syrian ship from leaving

Ukraine’s ambassador to Lebanon Ihor Ostash on Wednesday insisted that the Syrian ship docked at Tripoli Lebanon port is carrying stolen Ukrainian grain and urged Lebanon to block the vessel from leaving.

The claim comes just days before the tiny cash-strapped country receives Ukraine’s first grain shipment since Russia’s invasion began over five months ago.

The Syrian-flagged Laodicea has been anchored at the port of Tripoli since it arrived last Thursday, carrying 10,000 tons of wheat flour and barley. Ukraine says the grain was stolen by Russia.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the ship in 2015 for its affiliation with the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, a close political and military ally to Moscow.

A senior Lebanese customs official said Friday that Ukraine’s claims that the ship contained stolen goods were not true and that the vessel’s papers appeared in order following an inspection.

Lebanon, already in the throes of a crippling economic and political crisis, has found itself entangled in the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine. A judge on Monday ordered the Laodicea not to set sail for 72 hours, following a request from Kyiv. However, Lebanon’s prosecutor general the following day decided the ship could set sail.

Ostash at a news conference Wednesday presented documents and mapping of the Laodicea’s journey and cargo. He said that evidence from Kyiv’s security agencies and judiciary indicates the vessel contained stolen goods.

“Of course it’s important to understand that we would like to go via legal procedures to … provide all possible evidences and proofs of the Ukrainian side,” Ostash said. He presented a photo of what appears to be the Laodicea being loaded with the cargo in the Russia-annexed Crimea peninsula.

The ongoing fuss over the Laodicea comes as the first grain ship carrying 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn aboard the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni entered Turkey’s Bosporus Strait en route to the Tripoli port in Lebanon. It’s the first grain ship heading from the war-torn country since Russia’s invasion in late February.

A Lebanese official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the ship is expected to take about four days to arrive in Lebanon from Istanbul after it was searched.

After presenting Kyiv’s latest evidence about the Laodicea, Ostash turned to the Razoni, which he said unlike the Syrian ship carried “in a legal way, not stolen, original Ukrainian grain.”

Lebanon condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which angered Moscow and its allies in Beirut. Ostash praised Lebanon again for taking this position.

Lebanon, already in the throes of a crippling economic and political crisis, has found itself entangled in the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine. A judge on Monday ordered the Laodicea not to set sail for 72 hours, following a request from Kyiv. However, Lebanon’s prosecutor general the following day decided the ship could set sail.

The Laodicea is now free to go once those 72 hours pass but that would anger Ukraine. Russia’s diplomatic mission in Lebanon praised the move, accusing Ukraine of lying about the cargo and trying to damage relations between Moscow and Beirut.

Ostash at a news conference Wednesday presented documents and mapping of the Laodicea’s journey and cargo. He said that evidence from Kyiv’s security agencies and judiciary indicates the vessel contained stolen goods.

Lebanon debate /Associated press

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