Russia's theft of Ukrainian grain appears to be ramping up as it continues its war on the country, according to new satellite photos of the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Two Russia-flagged bulk carrier ships are shown docking and loading up with what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain in the images. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of "gradually stealing" Ukrainian food products and trying to sell them.
The new images from Maxar Technologies, dated May 19 and 21, show the ships — the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka — docked next to what appear to be grain silos with grain pouring off of a belt into an open hold. Both ships have now left the port, according to the ship tracking site MarineTraffic.com, with the Matros Pozynich sailing through the Aegean Sea claiming to be on its way to Beirut and the Matros Koshka still in the Black Sea.
It's difficult to know for certain whether the ship is being loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain, but Russia-annexed Crimea produces little grain itself, unlike the agriculturally rich Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia immediately to the north. Ukrainian officials and industry sources have told CNN that Russian forces in occupied areas have emptied several silos and trucked the grain south.
Earlier this month, the Matros Pozynich carried out a similar mission: loading up with grain and setting sail out of the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean. It was initially bound for Egypt with its cargo, but it was turned away from Alexandria after a warning from Ukrainian officials, according to the country's government. It was also barred entry to Beirut, eventually docking in Latakia, in Syria, where Russia has for years been propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
At the same time, Russia has been blocking Ukraine from exporting goods from its ports, fueling fears of a global food crisis.
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