Russia confirms moving grains from Ukraine's occupied territories

8 Jun 2022 | Masha Belikova

Russian authorities have officially reported that they are ready to load grains from Ukrainian ports that are currently occupied by Russian forces – including the heavily damaged Mariupol, and the port of Berdyansk, according to Russian media agency Interfax.

The agency has also reported that the first train loaded with grain had departed from the Zaporizhzhia region in southeast Ukraine and was destined to reach Crimea, according to the report.

"Berdyansk sea port has started work. On behalf of the commander-in-chief we are ready to load grain in these ports,” the Russian minister of defense was reported in the media to have said of loadings at both Berdyansk and Mariupol.

Grain vessels that were caught in Berdyansk port on the day of the Russian invasion left the ports in March under orders from Russian military forces, although a vessel docked in Mariupol and nominated to head to Turkey was left behind.

The vessel has been out of range for the last 99 days, although Russian media earlier showed it remains still in the port.

The move comes along with the Russian-controlled head of the military-civil administration for the Zaporizhzhia region, Eugene Balitsky, stating that the first eleven wagons loaded with grains were heading from elevators at Mariupol towards the Crimea region.

“And it will not be just 11 wagons, but it will be hundreds of wagons, thousands of wagons. Naturally, our farmers will receive money that will be very important to them so that they can sow the next harvest, " he was quoted in Interfax.

He did not specify exactly which farmers would receive money for that grain.

Russian authorities also reported that rail connections between the occupied territories had been restored to the Crimean region - which Russia invaded back in 2014 - with connections restored on six sections, meaning now it is possible to move grains by rail, not just by truck.

It also comes after Ukrainian officials said that at least 500,000 mt of grains - valued at tens of millions of dollars - had been moved from Ukrainian regions occupied by Russian troops towards Russia or Crimea since the start of the war on February 24.

Some local sources have also said that the removed grains were taken rather than being paid for, but that has proved impossible to confirm.

For those grains that were paid for, prices are at least half the values paid in to producers in Ukrainian-controlled territories.

Russia currently occupies Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, which are the key ones for sunflower production but were not that significant for the winter crops and corn production. 

Alongside that, Russia still also occupies the Crimea region.