Russian pirate fleet in Azov Sea. How Russian occupants loot Ukraine through ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol


After February 24, 2002, the Russian Federation has gained complete control over the Azov Sea. Having seized sea ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, Russian occupants launched active sea transportation of stolen Ukrainian crops and metals. They thoroughly hide ships by switching off marine identification system and covering names of bulk carriers

The Center for Journalist Investigations succeeded in identifying several carriers, the core of the Russian pirate fleet in the Sea of Azov

The story begins in Mariupol in February 2022 when six civilian foreign ships and their crews were blocked after the Russian full scale invasion.

Resident of temporary occupied Berdyansk takes photo of the water area of port, 04.07.2023 р., photo from Instagram

Crews have been evacuated after the Russian occupation of Mariupol. Two bulk carriers owned by Turkish companies left the port but other four ships stayed in the port of Mariupol. 

Ships blocked in the port of Mariupol after 24.02.2022 and data about bulk carriers from, «nationalized» by Russian occupants. Collage by

Ship «Azburg» under the flag of the Dominican Republic has been burnt by the Russian shelling. The ship was owned by Turkish company Albros Shipping & Trading.

Other two bulk carriers survived, despite large scale Russian bombardment. 

Ship Lady Augusta under the flag of Jamaica is owned by Lebanese Adriamediteran Ltd. The final owner and crew are citizens of Syria. As it has been reported in the summer of 2022, they were proposed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia to take their ship but it still stays in the port of Mariupol. 

Ship Blue Star I is bulk carrier under the flag of Panama, built in 2005. Its deadweight is  5245 tons. Manager of the ship is company Fetida Maritime from Odesa.

Blue Star I and Lady Augusta in the port of temporary occupied Mariupol, summer 2022, screenshot of the Russian propagandist video

Ship Smarta is bulk carriers under the flag of Liberia; it is owned by Maltese SMARTA SHIPPING LTD and INTRESCO Ltd.

Ship Smarta in the port of occupied Mariupol, spring 2023, screenshot of the video

Occupation government of so-called «DNR» declared «nationalization» of these ships at the beginning of June 2022.

Satellite photos demonstrate that ships Blue Star I, Lady Augusta and Smarta have stayed in Mariupol until autumn 2022. Since October, 2022, they have regularly departed from the port of Mariupol for quite long time. 

Now let us compare bulker Blue Star and the ship which has been noticed in the port of Berdyansk during recent explosions on June 2, 2023. They have the same color, the same construction of communication tower and masts at the ship’s bow. 

Ship Blue Star I on photos from website and residents of Berdyansk, May-June 2023. Collage by

In May 2023, we noticed that when Blue Star I left Mariupol, similar ship entered port of Berdyansk on the same day or next day. 

We identified two cases in June 2023 (on 15 and 20, June) when «nationalized ship» left Mariupol and entered Berdyansk. 

We could not yet find convincing evidence about movements of ships Lady Augusta and Smarta from the port of Mariupol to Crimean or Russian ports, or the port of Berdyansk.  

Recently, ship Lady Augusta has been photographed by the personnel of Russian governmental company «RosKapStroi». In December 2022, the company was entitled to manage the port of Mariupol. Its head is Russian citizen Julia Gennadievna Maksimova. Russian occupation government in Donetsk region transferred ships «nationalized» in Mariupol under the management of «RosKapStroi».

Head of Russian federal company «RoskapStroi» Julia Maksimova in the port of temporary occupied Mariupol, spring 2023, screenshot of video at youtube.

This company has performed the function of the single procurement entity during reconstruction and construction of objects financed by the Russian federal budget. It has been involved into the works on the following objects in Crimea: car road and entrance to the Kerch Bridge, airport in Simferopol, reconstruction of airdrome in Belbek, restoration of Khan Palace. The cost of the latter amounted to 1 billion and 300 million Rubles. 

Ukraine imposed sanctions on «RosKapStroi» in October 2022. However, it has not yet been sanctioned by the European Union and the USA. 

The project of «RosKapStroi» in Mariupol is called «logistical center». In fact, the company brings in construction materials for military fortifications, supervises their construction and oversees the stealing and further transportation of Ukrainian steel and grain. 

For these purposes, Russian ships «Mezhdurechensk» and «RM 3» have regularly come to Mariupol from Rostov. They switch off their marine identification systems. 

Russian ships «RM 3» (above) and «Mezhdurechensk» in the water area of Mariupol, spring 2023. Collage by

The use of stolen ships to bring in construction materials to Mariupol and Berdyansk and take out stolen Ukrainian grain and steel has been approved by Russian authorities in April 2023. The high level meeting of Dmitrii Patrushev, the Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, and other Russian federal officials was held in Mariupol on that day.

Julia Maksimova photographs the stealing of the Ukrainian grain in the port of temporary occupied Mariupol, spring 2023. Screenshot of video at Youtube channel of «RosKapStroi»

In July 2023, bulk carrier «Sokolki» under the Russian flag (based in the Russian port of Astrakhan) joined Russian pirate fleet in the Sea of Azov.

Ship «Sokolki» at website

In accordance with the database of the International Maritime Organization, ship «Sokolki» has now the name «PORT OLYA 4». It is owned by company «MG-Flot» from the Russian region of Dagestan. One year ago it had another name – «Transmorflot». The Federal Tax Service of the Russian Federation closed free access to its registration data and an information about its owners. It has been done in order to avoid international sanctions. 

Ukraine imposed sanctions on this company in autumn 2022, the USA and Great Britain – in May 2023. There is no surprise that this ship entered Mariupol from Volgodonsk with working identification system – there is nothing to lose for its owners. On the other hand, the European Union has not yet imposed its sanctions on the company and its ships are allowed to enter European ports. 

The entrance of «Sokolki» to Mariupol has been the first fully documented entrance of the Russian trade ship to the Ukrainian port during one year and a half of the Russian occupation of Mariupol. 

Screenshot from with geo-location of ship in the port of Mariupol 

Automatic identification system of Russian ship «Kapitan Mironov» has been switched off since June 20, 2023. Before this date, this ship has «disappeared» several times per week. 

After thorough examination of photos and videos from temporary occupied Berdyansk, we can conclude that «Kapitan Mironov» visited Berdyansk during June 2023, with intervals of 2-3 days. 

Russians changed the color of the ship. In 2020, its color has been changed from red to black. Recently, the logo on its stack has been painted. 

Comparison of ship on photos from website and residents of Berdyansk, May-June 2023. Collage by

«Kapitan Mironov» regularly moored at berth # 5 of the port of Berdyansk. Another ship moored at berth # 4 every 2-3 days. 

In accordance with website, bulk carrier «Inzhener Trubin» has stayed in the Sea of Azov. Its identification system has been switched off since June 9, 2023. 

We can assume that this ship is also part of the Russian pirate fleet in the Sea of Azov. The US government imposed sanctions on this ship and Russian JSC «Severnoe morskoe parokhodstvo» on May 8, 2022. 

Russian pirate ships in the port of temporary occupied Berdyansk, 12.06.2023, photo by eyewitnesses

Besides that, Berdyansk residents took pictures of barge and combat boat of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the port of Berdyansk in June 2023. We can assume that military cargo has been supplied to Berdyansk by civilian ships. It should be reminded that Berdyansk targets were destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on May 30, 2023.