Ukraine has asked Turkish authorities to detain a Russian-flagged vessel carrying Ukrainian grain, the country’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, told CNN on Saturday.
The Zhibek Zholy ship is currently at anchor near the Turkish port of Karasu because “it was actually detained by the Turkish customs authorities and it is not allowed to enter the port,” Bondar said. “We are now awaiting the decision of the competent authorities of Turkey regarding the actions that Ukrainian law enforcement insists on,” he said.
Turkey’s Commerce Ministry has yet to respond to CNN’s request for confirmation that the vessel has been detained.
Bodnar said Ukraine initially approached the Turkish Foreign Ministry about the vessel on Thursday, and on Friday the Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey received a call from Ukrainian authorities “to ensure its detention and inspection. “.
“Perhaps we will also demand his arrest,” Bodnar said. “We sent appeals to the Turkish authorities, organized several communications with senior officials.” CNN contacted the Turkish Foreign Ministry about Bodnar’s request.
Ukraine has repeatedly said that Russia has stolen hundreds of thousands of tons of grain since the start of the war.
According to ship tracking site Marine Traffic, the cargo ship left the Russian port of Novorossiysk on June 22 and spent nearly a week at sea between Ukraine and Russia.
The cargo ship turned on its tracker as it left the Sea of Azov for Karasu, Turkey on June 29 and arrived at the Turkish port on Friday, according to Marine Traffic.
While it is possible the grain came from nearby areas, Bodnar said the ship’s loading point was “definitely” Berdyansk – “occupied territory”, without specifying why he is certain. Bodnar added that he does not have the name of the company or the district from which the grain was taken.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration, now partly under Russian control, said on Telegram on Thursday that the first merchant ship had left the port of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, and reiterated the claims of the Russia that the waters surrounding the port were cleared by engineering units from the Russian naval base in Novorossiysk.
Bodnar said Ukraine sent the second call to Turkey on Friday “as we just learned that the ship was coming” after the initial call was made on Wednesday “when we received information from open sources that which such a vessel was loading and apparently intended to enter port.”
Friday’s appeal has “a legal component” and was sent “to all decision-making authorities in Turkey”, he said.
According to Bodnar, the Turkish Ministry of Commerce responded to the initial call saying the ship will remain anchored. near the port of Karasu without being allowed to be unloaded or to turn back, while Turkey assesses Ukraine’s claims.
“I feel like the Russian side tried to set a precedent and tried to start transporting everything from occupied ports – it’s Berdyansk, maybe it’s Mariupol,” Bodnar said.
“Moreover, this is probably one of the attempts to drive a wedge between Turkey and Ukraine. As well as an attempt to legalize its occupation of ports that belong to Ukraine.”
In response to media reports that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine has submitted a request to Turkey to stop and detain the cargo ship, the ship’s owner, the National Railway Company of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) , said in a statement on Saturday that “KTZ has sought confirmation from the Ukrainian authorities regarding this request.
“Active consultations are underway with the ambassadors of the two countries [Turkey and Ukraine]“, reads the press release.
“The seller, which is a company registered in Europe, insists that the transaction is legal. In order to clarify the situation and rule out violations of international law, KTZ has sent a letter to the lessee of the vessel with a request for provide, as an emergency, a detailed explanation of the situation and the delivery of all supporting documents (contracts, certificates, etc.),” the company said.
“KTZ assures its commitment to respect international law,” he added.
Ukraine accuses Russia of blockading its ports and trying to “steal” Ukrainian grain. The United Nations said Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports had already driven up global food prices and threatened to cause catastrophic food shortages in some parts of the world.
Russia has repeatedly denied it was blockading ports and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called claims that Russia was stealing grain from its neighbor “fake news”.