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Satellite images show first grain ship out of Ukraine ended up in Syria

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, center bottom with four white cranes on its red deck, at port in Tartus, Syria, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, center bottom with four white cranes on its red deck, at port in Tartus, Syria, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

The first shipment of grain to leave Ukraine under a wartime deal appears to have ended up in Syria — even as Damascus remains a close ally of Moscow, satellite images analyzed today by The Associated Press show.

But Lebanon, which was Razoni’s presumed destination, ended up not taking the shipment, even as it struggles with its own economic crisis. Lebanese media had reported that after a months-long delay due to the war in Ukraine, the merchant who had bought the shipment no longer wanted it.

The arrival of the cargo ship Razoni in Syria comes after the government in Kyiv praised the ship’s initial departure from the port of Odesa as a sign that Ukraine could safely ship out its barley, corn, sunflower oil and wheat to a hungry world where global food prices have spiked in part due to the war.

But its arrival in Syria’s port of Tartus shows how complicated and murky international trade and shipping can be. Syria has already received Ukrainian grain taken from Russian-occupied territory amid Moscow’s war on Kyiv.

Images from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by the AP show the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni at port just before 11 a.m. yesterday. The vessel was just next to the port’s grain silos, key to supplying wheat to the nation.

Data from the Razoni’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off since Friday, when it was just off the coast of Cyprus, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but vessels wanting to hide their movements often turn theirs off. Those heading to Syrian ports routinely do so.

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