Ship sail

Lebanon acquits vessel accused of transporting stolen Ukrainian grain: official

Lebanon’s attorney general on Tuesday authorized the release of a Syrian-flagged ship after it was seized following allegations by the Kyiv embassy in Beirut that it was transporting flour and barley stolen from Ukraine, said an official.

Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat cleared the Laodicea, which docked in the northern port city of Tripoli last week, to set sail after investigations failed to prove it was carrying stolen goods, the state said. AFP a judicial official.

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“Preliminary investigations (…) did not reveal the existence of a criminal offense, nor that the goods were stolen,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Lebanon claimed that the grain on board the ship came from an area occupied by Russian forces and said it had presented Lebanese authorities with evidence that the goods had been stolen.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Moscow forces of ransacking its grain warehouses since Russia invaded the country in late February.

On Saturday, Oueidat ordered the seizure of the ship and instructed the police to investigate.

The prosecutor concluded that the grain on board the ship belonged to a Syrian merchant, the judicial official said.

“The Syrian national whose name appears on the shipment from Ukraine came for investigation and presented the papers and documents proving his ownership,” the official said on Tuesday.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, tentatively resumed grain exports this week following a UN-backed deal.

A Sierra Leone-registered ship, Razoni, left the port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday as part of a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations that aims to release millions of tonnes of trapped Ukrainian goods into markets global markets and stem a global food crisis.

The Marine Traffic website showed the vessel – which is carrying 26,000 tonnes of maize – off the coast of Bulgaria at 09:00 GMT on Tuesday.

Lebanon, in the grip of one of the worst financial crises in the world, faces a particularly acute shortage of bread.

Read more: Turkey expects daily departures from Ukraine after first grain ship departs