According to the Kazakh owner of the ship, the Estonian grain broker has assured that the grain is Ukrainian. Russia has repeatedly been found stealing Ukrainian grain and passing it on as Russian.
Turkey stopped a grain cargo of about 7,000 tons that arrived in Turkey from the territories occupied by Russia over the weekend. Ukraine requested the cargo to be stopped and examined.
Multiple media have shown based on satellite images and other open sources, that Russia is exporting grain from the territories it has occupied to, for example, Turkey and Syria. Russia claims the grain is Russian, and ships transporting it often turn off their tracking systems on the way to make it harder to track what they’re doing.
The Žibek Žoly ship, now stopped on the Turkish coast, had also done the same on its way.
Read more: Grain ships sail without positioning, cargoes are mixed together: This is how Russia exports grain from Ukraine
Žibek Žola The Russian left the port of Berdjansk, which is held by the Russian armed forces, and was on its way to Karasu in Turkey. There is no certainty about the exact departure date of the ship, but on Friday, July 1, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey wrote on the messaging service Twitter that Ukraine has asked to stop the ship. Now it is anchored off the coast of Turkey.
Berdjansk is located in Zaporizhia. According to the local Telegram news channel, on June 25, a cargo ship had arrived in Berdyansk, which was immediately suspected to be carrying grain away from Zaporizhia. Eyewitnesses told the informant to the Ukrinform websitethat the cargo ship had been escorted by four warships of the Russian Navy.
Russia has appointed its own mayor in the region of Zaporizhia, favorable to its occupying administration Jevhen Balitskyin. Balitskyi wrote on the messaging service Telegram on Thursday, June 30, that the first commercial cargo ship has been able to leave the port of Berdjansk.
According to Balitsyk, this first commercial ship set out “to export grain to friendly countries”. Balitskyi did not specify the countries or mention the origin of the grain, Radio Liberty tells.
On Sunday Turkey announced that it had arrested Žibek Žoly.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine had requested a stoppage from the Turkish Ministry of Justice on Thursday, June 30. As a justification, the prosecutor’s office announced that Žibek Žoly participated in the “illegal export of Ukrainian grain” from Berdyansk.
Grain is an important export product for Ukraine. At the moment, up to 22 million tons of grain are stuck in the country due to the Russian attack, the absence of which from the world market not only prevents Ukraine from receiving income, but also increases prices and threatens to cause starvation in the areas to which the grain was intended to be sold – for example in North Africa.
For the first time, Ukraine has asked Turkey to stop Russian grain ships on their way already on June 13. Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture contacted by the news agency Reuters Taras Vysotskyi estimated that by the beginning of July, Russia would have stolen a total of about 400,000 tons of grain from Ukraine after the attack at the end of February. According to Vysotsky, most of them have been transported to Turkey.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey told Reuters on Tuesday that the Ukrainian administration has provided Turkey with its own evidence of the involvement of a total of thirteen ships in transporting grain theft.
From the background of at least three of these Reuters found the owner’s company, on which the United States has imposed sanctions in April.
When news of Ukraine’s request to stop the grain ship began to spread last week, many noticed that Žibek Žoly is owned by a subsidiary of Kazakhstan Railways. Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) rushed immediately on Friday to inform ownership relationships.
According to KTZ, Žibek Žoly is leased to Green Line LLC, a company registered in St. Petersburg. According to KTZ, the company has entered into a long-term agreement with the Estonian grain brokerage company Mangelbert to export grain from Ukraine to Turkey.
The agreement between KTZ and Green Line LLC for renting Žibek Žoly has been concluded in October 2021 and will continue until the end of November.
According to KTZ’s press release, both Green Line LLC and Mangelbert OÜ have assured that they are not subject to US, Canadian or EU sanctions. If sanctions were imposed on the companies, KTZ would have the right to cancel the contract regarding the charter of the vessel, which is valid until November.
On Tuesday, the Minister of Industry of Kazakhstan Kairbek Uskenbaev comment on the local Liter website according to which, if the vessel participates in activities in the charter relationship that are in conflict with the laws of Kazakhstan or international laws, the charter relationship will be terminated. On Tuesday, the minister said that Kazakhstan had not yet received more information about the case from Turkey.
The head office of Green Line LLC is Russian according to company registers In St. Petersburg, on the banks of the Fontanka river. The company was founded in 2009, but there is rather limited information about the company’s personnel. There was also no information about the owners of the company as of early Tuesday evening.
Estonian Mangelbert OÜ was founded in 1999. Its head office is located in Tallinn, right next to the passenger port, according to the Estonian business register and the company’s website. Mangelbert’s business is the brokerage of grain, raw tobacco and vegetable oils.
Based on international business registers, St. Petersburg-based Green Line LLC and Mangelbert OÜ both employ around 10–15 people.
Mangelbert OÜ says on his website, that its operations extend from Black Sea ports in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania to Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Italy and several other countries. From the Baltic ports in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the company’s operations spread to Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Norway.
According to the international company registers, there is also a company called Mangelbert operating in Russia, whose place of business has been in St. Petersburg. The company was in operation from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, a company called Mangelbert Agro, which previously operated in Estonia and had at least one of the same board members as the current Mangelbert OÜ, also ceased operations.
When Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) announced on Friday that the Žibek Žoly vessel is leased, it said that it had received information about the cargo from a representative of Mangelbert OÜ. Mangelbert OÜ had told KTZ on June 28 that the grain cargo was exported at the request and consent of Ukraine.
HS contacted Mangelbert on Tuesday morning to ask if the company can prove the claim at Ukraine’s request, for example by presenting supporting documents. The company has not responded to HS’s contact.