Ship sail

Vessel accused of transporting stolen Ukrainian grain leaves Lebanon

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Beirut (AFP) – A Syrian ship cleared for release by Lebanon after being seized on allegations it was carrying flour and barley stolen from Ukraine left port on Thursday, officials said.

The Laodicea, which was moored in the northern port of Tripoli, was allowed to leave after investigations failed to prove it was carrying stolen goods, officials said.

It set sail at 08:00 (0500 GMT), according to Lebanese state media, and was later reported by authorities in Damascus to have arrived at the Syrian port of Tartous to unload its cargo.

The Kyiv embassy in Lebanon claimed the grain shipment was loaded from an area occupied by Russian forces and said it had presented Lebanese authorities with evidence that the goods were stolen.

Ukraine said in a statement it was “disappointed” by the decision to clean up the vessel, which it said would encourage Russia to “continue flights into temporarily occupied southern Ukraine with a sense of impunity”.

“We call on the Lebanese side (…) to take measures to prevent further attempts to use Lebanon to ship stolen Ukrainian grain,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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

Lebanese prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered the seizure of Laodicea on Saturday and instructed the police to investigate. The prosecutor concluded that the grain on board the ship belonged to a Syrian merchant.

“Ukraine has always made efforts to support Lebanon’s food security, taking the first place among the exporters of agricultural products to this country in 2021,” Kyiv’s foreign ministry said.

“The Ukrainian food supply did not stop even after the start of Russia’s large-scale armed aggression against Ukraine.”

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

The Sierra Leone-registered Razoni left Odessa for Lebanon on Monday with 26,000 tons of maize as part of a Turkey-UN-brokered deal that aims to release millions of tons of trapped Ukrainian produce onto world markets .