Lebanon allows seized Syrian ship carrying suspected stolen Ukrainian grain to leave

'Laodicea' has been docked in port of Tripoli since last week

The grain-laden Syrian-flagged ship 'Laodicea', docked in Lebanon's northern port of Tripoli. AFP
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A Syrian ship carrying grain suspected to have been stolen from Ukraine will be allowed to leave Lebanon's northern port of Tripoli, the country's transport minister said on Wednesday.

The Laodicea has been docked in Lebanon’s Tripoli port since last week, as investigations were carried out to determine whether the grain had been stolen.

A judge on Monday ordered the Laodicea not to set sail for 72 hours, following a request from Kyiv, but Lebanon’s prosecutor general decided the following day that the ship could leave.

Already in the throes of a severe economic and political crisis, Lebanon has found itself entangled in the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Lebanon is usually reliant on Ukraine for about 60 per cent of its wheat, but the Russian invasion and subsequent blockade of Black Sea ports has disrupted regular grain shipments, causing a global supply shortage.

Lebanese Transport Minister Ali Hamie said on Twitter that the ship, blacklisted by the US in 2015 for its role in the Syrian conflict, would be allowed to travel on to Syria.

The minister added that the ship will be allowed to leave in line with Lebanese law and “based on our sovereignty on our land, sea and sky”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ihor Ostash, insisted the Syrian ship was carrying stolen Ukrainian grain and urged Beirut to block the vessel from leaving.

“There is very strong evidence that the grain and flour on board the Laodicea is stolen from Ukraine,” Mr Ostash told a press conference.

He added that Ukraine’s general prosecutor had documented 78 ships being used to transport stolen grain from what Ukraine considers to be the Russian-occupied territory of Crimea to the Middle East.

A senior Lebanese customs official said on Friday that Ukraine’s claims that the ship contained stolen goods were untrue and that, following an inspection, the vessel’s papers appeared to be in order.

Updated: August 03, 2022, 6:06 PM