ISTANBUL — Ukraine will summon Turkey’s ambassador to seek clarification, its foreign ministry said on Thursday, a day after a Russian-flagged cargo ship suspected of carrying stolen Ukrainian grain left a Turkish port.
The dispute comes at a time of record food prices globally, as conflict in Ukraine, the world’s largest grain supplier, has fueled concerns about food security.
It was “unacceptable” for the ship to have been allowed to leave, the Ukrainian ministry said, after Refinitiv ship tracking data showed the vessel sailed from Turkey’s northwestern port of Karasu late on Wednesday.
“We regret that Russia’s ship Zhibek Zholy, which was full of stolen Ukrainian grain, was allowed to leave Karasu port, despite criminal evidence presented to the Turkish authorities,” foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Twitter.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey said Turkish authorities had detained the ship. Reuters previously reported that Ukraine had asked Turkey to arrest the ship.
But on Wednesday, Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed as false reports that the ship had been detained by Turkey.
Citing the ship’s crew, Russia’s TASS news agency said on Thursday that it planned to offload grain on to “a storage vessel” after leaving anchorage near a Turkish port.
The shipping tracker showed the ship’s destination to be Russia’s port of Kavkaz, with an estimated arrival date of Friday.
Kyiv has accused Moscow of stealing grain from territories seized by Russian forces since their invasion began in late February. The Kremlin, which calls the action a “special military operation,” has denied such accusations.
Ukraine has struggled to export goods, with many of its ports blocked as war rages along its southern coast. Grain constitutes nearly a fifth of all its exports, official data shows.
NATO member Turkey, which has good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has criticized the invasion but also rejected Western sanctions on Russia. Ankara has agreed with Ukraine to block commercial shipments between Crimea and Turkey since 2014.
At the same time, Turkey has played a key role in talks between the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine on a potential Black Sea corridor to export grain from Ukraine. (Reporting by Omer Berberoglu in Istanbul and Max Hunder in Kyiv; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)