Satellite images show first ship out of Ukraine in Syria

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The first shipment of grain from Ukraine under a wartime deal appears to have ended up in Syria — even as Damascus remains a close ally of Moscow, an Associated Press analysis of satellite images showed Tuesday.

The cargo ship Razoni has arrived in Syria, after the government in Kiev hailed the ship’s early departure from the port of Odessa as a sign that Ukraine can safely ship its barley, corn, sunflower oil and wheat to a hungry world where prices have been pushed up somewhat by a global food war.

But its arrival in the Syrian port of Tartus shows just how complex and chaotic international trade and shipping can be. Syria has already received Ukrainian grain taken from Russian-occupied territory during Moscow’s war on Kiev.

Planet Labs PBC images analyzed by the AP showed the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni in port just before 11 a.m. Monday. The ship was located next to the port’s grain silos, which were key to supplying the country with wheat.

According to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com, data from the Razoni’s automatic identification system tracker showed it had been off since Friday, when it was off the coast of Cyprus. Ships must keep their AIS trackers on, but ships that want to hide their movements often turn them off. Those going to Syrian ports do so regularly.

The Razoni can be identified in satellite imagery by its color, length and width, as well as the four large white cranes on its deck. Sameer Madani, co-founder of the oil-shipment website TankerTrackers.com and an expert in tracking ships through satellite imagery, also identified the ship from the picture.

The Financial Times first reported the satellite image.

Loaded with 26,000 tons of corn, Razoni left Odessa on 1 August. The cargo ship was the first to leave a Ukrainian-controlled port in the country since Russia launched the war in February. As part of the agreement, personnel from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine monitor the shipments to ensure they travel safely through the Black Sea, which is mined in some areas, and the UN Coordination Center in Istanbul. Has seen combat during conflict.

But Lebanon, which was Razoni’s intended destination, Due to non-receipt of shipment, Even as it struggles with its own financial crisis. After a month-long delay due to the war in Ukraine, Lebanese media reported that the merchant who bought the shipment did not want it.

The ship docked in Mersin, Turkey before proceeding to Syria.

When asked about Razoni, the UN Joint Coordination Center said in a statement that “after clear inspections of outbound vessels in Istanbul, the JCC ceases their monitoring.”

“The freed vessels then proceed to their final destination, whatever that may be,” the center said.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut referred to an earlier statement that Razoni’s cargo was no longer Kiev’s responsibility.

“Our task was to reopen the ports for grain cargo and that has been done,” the statement said.

An official reached by telephone Tuesday at the port of Tartus declined to comment. Syria’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tartus is about 320 kilometers (200 mi) northwest of Damascus, the capital of Syria, on the Mediterranean Sea.

Syria has been sanctioned by the West for killing and abusing civilians during its civil war, yet the West has granted food aid exemptions. Russia’s military support is crucial to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s stay in power. Syria has recognized the Russian-backed eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as sovereign entities. Kiev severed diplomatic ties with Damascus.

Since the beginning of this year, ships have transported Ukrainian food from Russian-occupied territory to Syria. In May, Satellite images showed the Russian-flagged Matros Pozinich dockside in Latakia, Syria. Ukraine said the ship had 27,000 tons of grain stolen by Russia and initially tried to sell it to Egypt, which refused to take the cargo.

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Associated Press writer Karim Cheheb in Beirut contributed to this report.

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