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Security Service of Ukraine detains African cargo ship captain stealing Ukrainian grain from Crimea

Security Service of Ukraine detains African cargo ship captain stealing Ukrainian grain from Crimea Photo: SBU detains captain of African cargo ship (
Author: Liliana Oleniak

The Security Service of Ukraine detained the captain of an African-flagged cargo ship. He was transporting Ukrainian grain from the temporarily occupied Crimea, according to the Security Service of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office.

"The Security Service detained a foreign cargo ship and its captain, who worked for Russia, in the waters of the Odesa region. The ship was flying the flag of one of the Central African countries, and its crew fulfilled the order of the occupiers to export Ukrainian grain from the temporarily occupied Crimea," the Security Service of Ukraine says in a statement.

According to the investigation, during 2023-2024, the vessel repeatedly docked at the seaport of Sevastopol to pick up the looted Ukrainian agricultural products.

In particular, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office, in November 2023, a vessel called USKO MFU flying the flag of Cameroon, in violation of Ukrainian legislation and international maritime law, entered and left the port in Sevastopol, which was closed by Ukraine. There, the vessel was loaded with more than 3,000 tons of agricultural products intended for a Turkish company.

"The ship then transported the cargo to the Middle East for sale in favor of Russia. To disguise the crime, the captain periodically turned off the ship's GPS tracker and entered false information into the log of routes and berths of the vessel," the SSU says.

Photo: Security Service of Ukraine

In addition, at the end of May 2024, the vessel entered the closed port of Sevastopol for the second time with the AIS system turned off, where it unloaded cargo from Turkey. Subsequently, the vessel left the port, indicating its destination as Istanbul.

"However, after turning on the AIS system, on July 2, the vessel entered one of the ports of the Republic of Moldova," the prosecutors add.

Captain of the ship

According to the SSU, the captain of the cargo ship is a citizen of one of the countries of the South Caucasus, namely Azerbaijan. In addition to him, the ship's crew included 12 other foreigners.

During the search on board the vessel, the SSU found documents, navigation aids, and other material evidence of criminal activity, including documentation issued by the occupation administration of the Sevastopol Commercial Sea Port. The issue of choosing a type of detention is being settled. The offender faces up to 5 years in prison.

"While passing through the waters of the port of Reni, the USKO MFU vessel was detained and arrested based on a court order. As part of the criminal proceedings, the vessel was towed to Odesa region," law enforcement officers add.

Russia's export of stolen Ukrainian grain

After Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian occupiers began to massively steal grain from the temporarily occupied regions of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Crimea.

Recently, the Russian occupiers exported another batch of Ukrainian grain from the port of Mariupol. In particular, more than 80 thousand tons of the new batch of grain have already been exported.

In addition, it was previously reported that the Russian occupiers are using the Kerch Bridge to export stolen minerals from the occupied territories of Ukraine.