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Russia’s not-so-subtle Grain Swindle


Investigations by the BBC and the Financial Times have indicated that Russia has been stealing grain from Ukrainian silos and selling it for their own profit as the war continues. Mounting incriminating information has been building over the past few weeks despite Russia’s denial of the accusations. 

BBC journalists were able to talk to some Ukrainian farmers who claimed Russian soldiers not only stole their grain but also destroyed their land and equipment, taking everything they could from the farmers. Russian soldiers took their grain trucks, a few of which had GPS trackers attached. The tracking info mapped the truck’s route back to Russia. The next stop was a storage facility (identified as a location for storing and loading grain) in Oktyabrske, a town in Crimea. Beside this storage facility, there is a train line which can be used to transport the grain to different ports in the south of Crimea or Russia. The BBC also took note of the ‘Z’ painted on the roof of the storage facility, a symbol marking Russia’s invasion. Following the train transportation comes boats. Sevastopol port in west Crimea has had high levels of activity throughout June which is unusual for this port as Crimea reportedly does not produce much grain for export. Media reports and Ukrainian and US authorities identified nine ships believed to have been smuggling Ukrainian grain abroad. The BBC tracked journeys of these ships, going from Crimea to Turkey and reported ‘deceptive’ sailing actions. Ship trackers were switched off and when turned back on again the ships were sailing in a different direction or had a lower water depth which suggests cargo had been taken on board during the tracking blackout. 

The UN’S Safety of Life at Sea states all ships must keep trackers switched on at all times, the only exception being if the tracker risks safety e.g. a piracy threat. There were no piracy threats or threats of safety during the carrier ship’s journeys, raising the question of why these ships have been turning off their trackers when all other ships have left theirs on as required. These transportation activities are so suspicious that they practically confirm the suspicion of grain theft, despite Russia still declining to comment and previously denying the situation. 

Ukraine is already undergoing food shortages because of the damage to resources from fighting the invasion. From this comes the very real threat of a global food shortage, outlined on a graphics page of Reuters news and media site:

“While post-pandemic global demand, extreme weather, tightening food stocks, high energy prices, supply chain bottlenecks and export restrictions and taxes have been straining the food market for two years, the recent convergence of all these factors following Russia’s invasion is unprecedented and has sent food inflation rates spiking around the world.”

Essentials like food and electricity are becoming unaffordable to the everyday person. The cost of living is too expensive and prices are only forecast to rise. Russia and Ukraine are the largest grain suppliers to the rest of the world and now Russia has thrown a spanner in the works. A potentially catastrophic spanner. Countries fear impending grain and food supply shortages because of the ongoing war, especially since Russia appears to be taking Ukrainian grain for themselves to sell on. Already, food price increases linked to grain are hitting developing nations hard, sparking protests, for example, “In Iran, protestors took to the streets after prices for flour-based staples rose as much as 300%.”

For the grain that is received by countries, there is a new concern that it may be this stolen Ukrainian grain. Fears of allowing Russia to profit from this theft have led to the UK government announcing the use of ‘grain DNA testing technology’ to identify the grain coming in. Other countries are on board with the plan, including Australia, in a bid to stop the stolen Ukrainian grain’s route to market. 

Russian soldiers have supposedly realised that outright grain theft could result in farmers retaliating by clearing future harvests before forces can steal it. Farmers have begun to report Russian soldiers forcing them to accept ridiculously low prices for their harvest. This excuse of a transaction is in a bid to ensure the seizing of farmers’ future harvests. The farmers have no choice but to accept the little money forced their way as they have to earn something to live and work. Russia continues to run riot in Ukraine and ignore every set law during this grain swindle. DNA testing technology should come through with the factual evidence of this scandal, and investigations should help bring forward more information that will become harder and harder for Russia to deny involvement or intent. 

The war in Ukraine is fuelling a global food crisis (reuters.com)

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