Russia responds to reports Turkey detained its ship
Moscow has denied reports of Turkish customs seizing or arresting a Russian dry-cargo ship carrying grain near Karasu Port, as Ukrainian officials have claimed.
During a briefing on Wednesday, the deputy director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Aleksey Zaitsev, stated that the vessel, the Zhibek Zholy, was merely going through all the standard procedures before entering a port.
“According to Russia’s embassy in Turkey, the ship is currently in the roadstead of the port of Karasu and is undergoing standard procedures, including sanitary control,” Zaitsev stated. He further explained that based on the results of these inspections, the Turkish authorities will make a decision on whether or not to let the ship enter the port. Zaitsev noted that no matter the decision, there is absolutely no talk about detention or arrest of the vessel.
The ship’s crew members have also denied being arrested or detained by Turkish officials. Speaking to TASS on Tuesday, one member stated that none of the standard detention procedures have been carried out against the vessel, adding that it is at anchor due to bad weather.
“During a detention procedure, the ship is usually brought into the port under guard, meaning that it should specifically be done under the jurisdiction of Turkey’s guards if something really did happen. No arrest was made. The ship is simply at anchor due to weather conditions. A surveyor arrived on the ship, checked the cargo. This always happens,” the crew member explained.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasily Bodnar, claimed on July 3 that Turkish customs, at the behest of Kiev, had arrested a Russian cargo ship allegedly carrying “stolen” Ukrainian grain.
According to Reuters, which cited unnamed Ukrainian officials, the Zhibek Zholy, which was traveling to the Turkish port of Karasu from the Russian-held Azov Sea port of Berdiansk, was allegedly loaded with around 4,500 tons of grain.
The outlet also reported that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office had previously sent a letter to Turkey’s Justice Ministry in late June insisting that the Zkibek Zholy had been involved in the “illegal export of Ukrainian grain,” and allegedly had 7,000 tons of cargo on board. Ukraine reportedly asked Turkey to inspect the vessel and seize samples of grain for forensic examination to determine its origin.
Neither Turkish customs officials nor the authorities in Ankara have given any official comments on the situation regarding the ship so far.
Grain exports by sea from Ukraine, a major producer, were undermined by the ongoing conflict in the country. Kiev has previously accused Russia of “stealing” its grain – which Moscow has denied.
Western nations have accused Russia of blocking the ports. Moscow has repeatedly stated it would guarantee safe passage for the grain shipments if Kiev clears its ports of mines. Ukraine has accused Russian forces of mining the Black Sea ports. Russia suggested exporting the grain through the Russian-controlled ports of Berdiansk and Mariupol.