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Ukraine seizes cargo ship, detains captain for exporting 'looted' grain

KYIV: Ukraine seized a foreign cargo ship in the Black Sea off its Odesa region and detained the captain on suspicion of helping Moscow export Ukrainian grain from Russian occupied Crimea, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on thursday.

The vessel, which it did not identify, was travelling under the flag of a central African country and repeatedly docked at the Crimean sea port of Sevastopol to pick up "looted" agricultural products in 2023-24, the SBU said.

Russian forces occupied swathes of Ukraine's southern agricultural regions in the first year of its invasion in 2022, and Kyiv has accused Russia of stealing and destroying its grain. The SBU said the captain and 12 crew members helped Russia export several metric tonnes of Ukrainian grain taken from the occupied south to the Middle East for sale on behalf of Russia.

"The investigation is ongoing to establish all the circumstances of the crime and identify other persons involved in the illegal activity," the SBU said.

The captain, a citizen of a South Caucasus country, could face up to five years in prison for violating travel restrictions governing Ukraine's Russian occupied territories, it said.

The Odesa region hub plays a key role in Ukraine's Black Sea exports that it has revived without Russia's assent after Moscow quit a UN broke deal last summer that had allowed Kyiv to export food during the war with Russia.



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