Reuters could not independently verify the origin of the wheat being shipped from Crimea or whether the farmers and traders who handled it were paid.


Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-appointed governor of the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region said in June that Crimean ports had been used to export grain from Zaporizhzhia. However, he said farmers would be paid via a company set up by his administration, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

Additionally, Crimea’s Russia-installed administration said 1.4 million tonnes of wheat by bunker weight were harvested from Crimea’s own fields, in comments on social media in August.

Ukraine disputes these figures, saying Crimea does not produce nearly that much.

“The so-called ‘Crimean harvest’ includes grain exported from the territory of mainland Ukraine,” the Ukrainian agriculture ministry said in a statement in response to Reuters’ questions.

Prior to the current war, Syria had imported grain from Crimea on previous occasions since Russia took control of the peninsula, Reuters reported.

According to the Refinitiv data, Syria imported about 501,800 tonnes of wheat from Sevastopol this year until the end of November, up from about 28,200 tonnes in the whole of 2021.

Shipments picked up from May onwards with the largest monthly consignment of 78,600 tonnes in October, according to the data, which is collated from port inspection reports provided by port operators.


Increasingly, Syria is relying on a fleet of its own cargo ships or Russian-flagged ships to bring in food via government-to-government deals that eschew the usual tender and charter process for moving commodities by sea.

Analysis from maritime and commodities data platform Shipfix showed the number of cargo orders – global requests for available ships to transport grains – to Syria fell by two thirds to 54 in the year to Nov. 30 versus the whole of 2021.

Instead, the wheat cargoes are typically moving to Syria’s Latakia and Tartus ports on three Syrian ships, according to two grain trade sources familiar with the journey, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut, other Ukrainian diplomats, and an analysis from Shipfix.

The ships – the Laodicea, the Finikia and the Souria – are owned by the state-owned Syrian General Authority for Maritime Transport, according to Equasis and the US Treasury. All three have been sanctioned since 2015 by the United States for their alleged role in the conflict in Syria over the last decade.

Ships that have been designated are typically less well maintained and older due to prohibitions on accessing top tier insurance and certification services. They are able to operate more easily between countries also under sanctions, a possible explanation for the rising trade between the two allies.

Russia has repeatedly complained that the sanctions imposed on it this year have limited its ability to ship grains to countries across Africa and the Arab world that rely on its produce to feed their people.

The thicket of Western sanctions on Syria and Russia don’t formally target food but can in practice complicate such trade, in part because they make it difficult for some grain-trading houses to do business with them, especially due to financing constraints.

Syrian maritime authorities did not respond to requests for comment about the vessels.

Some shipments also arrived on Russian-flagged vessels, including the Mikhail Nenashev, Matros Pozynich and Matros Koshka, which Equasis, a shipping database, shows are owned by a subsidiary of a Russian state-owned company called United Shipbuilding Corporation.

Washington, the European Union and Britain imposed sanctions on the United Shipbuilding Corporation in April after the Russian invasion.

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