How Russia increases export of crops stolen in the South of Ukraine


In November and at the beginning of December, ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol stayed idle only for a few days shaken by the storm, Putin’s pirate fleet resumed the transportation of stolen Ukrainian grain and other products during the first week of winter. It is obvious that Russian occupants will keep looting Ukraine during winter, despite any weather conditions.

The Center of Journalist Investigations reports about preparation of occupied Ukrainian ports for the winter, number of Russian ships entering Berdyansk and Mariupol during last four weeks and amount of Ukrainian grain stolen by Russia from the Ukrainian South during two years of occupation.


Two ships with wheat left a Black Sea port and went to Somali and Burkina Faso in the middle of November. Moscow authorities plan to supply 200 000 tons of wheat free of charge to African countries by the end of 2023.

Russian Minister of Agriculture Dmitrii Patrushev has been the first Russian senior official who announced these plans at the exhibition «Russia». Putin announced at the end of November that three bulkers, 50 000 tons each, were loaded by grain in Russia and would go to Africa.

«Markets are shaking. There are growing problems in the financial sphere, in spheres of energy and food security. By the way, Russia fulfills its obligations and remains one of the largest food exporters in the world. For example, today first ships with free Russian grain will go to poorest countries in Africa», as told Vladimir Putin at the beginning of December. 

Russian bulker exits the port of temporarily occupied Berdyansk at the end of November 2023. Source: social media, satellite Sentinel-2. Collage:

At the same time Russian propagandists declare that Russia is among largest five suppliers of grain to EU countries. Analysis of data of Eurostat demonstrates that EU significantly increased import of Russian grain in September – by 22% per month, up to 180 000 tons.

It has been the highest indicator since March 2022. As an outcome, the Russian Federation holds the fourth place among largest exporters of crops to the European Union.

The Russian Federation has 24% share of the world export of wheat. Before the Russian invasion into Ukraine, this share has been 16%.

A likely explanation of this rise is the Russian occupation of the South of Ukraine and illegal exploitation of its agricultural resources.


Analysts of «Texty» media concluded that the Russian Federation could have harvested 15 million of tons of grain on newly occupied territories of Ukraine during last two years of the Russian invasion. It approximately equals the yearly output of countries like Romania.

Company OneSoil, using satellite images and machine learning, provided data on cultivated area of wheat, sunflower and corn in the occupied Ukrainian South. Data analysts calculated that Russia could have earned over 2 billion USD from selling the harvest stolen from occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in 2022 and 1,25 billion – from the harvest stolen in 2023. Russian burglars are expecting more earnings next year.

Russian occupants take out stolen Ukrainian grain from Crimea or from ports in Rostov-na-Donu, Yeysk, Temruk, Novorossiysk, port «Caucasus» etc.

Satellite images regularly demonstrate a large number of grain carriers along port terminals in Sevastopol and Kerch. Ukrainians post photos of Russian trains with stolen Ukrainian grain on occupied territory of the country. Russian pirate fleet delivers it from occupied Berdyansk and Mariupol to Russian ports in Azov and Black Sea.

Three trade ships and one military ship have stayed simultaneously in the port of occupied Berdyansk since the beginning of December 2023. These bulkers and barges can carry from three to five thousand tons of wheat and other crops. They are loaded on larger ships in Russian or occupied Crimean ports and then delivered to Turkey, countries of the European Union, Near East and Africa.

The port of temporarily occupied Berdyansk, 3.12.2023 р. Screenshot of video at YouTube

According to the data of the Center of Journalist Investigations, 20 Russian bulkers have entered the port of Berdyansk in September and October 2023. Seven unidentified ships have been spotted on satellite images during last four weeks. Great cloudiness covered the occupied South during almost all month of November, and satellites provided images only for six days.

Russian occupants could not take out stolen grain on November 27 when there was a powerful storm in Azov Sea. There is no doubt that piers of occupied Ukrainian ports were not empty during other days.

One bulker has been found in Mariupol during the storm. As usual, its identification system has been switched off.

It seems that it has been the ship called «Smarta». It belonged to the company from Liberia. Russian occupants seized it last summer and named «Aleksandr Zakharchenko».

Ship «Smarta» in the port of temporarily occupied Mariupol in the summer 2022 (left) and on 27.11.2023 (right)

The monitoring of the Center of Journalist Investigations also revealed 5 ships in Mariupol. They included bulkers «river-sea» «RMZ» and «Mezhdurechensk». Russian company «RosKapStroy» has used them on routes from Mariupol to Rostov and Yeysk.

As a rule, Russian bulkers bring construction materials for civil and military purposes to the port of Mariupol. On their way back, these ships transport metal from «Azovstal» and coal from occupied Donbas.


Besides this conventional cargo, Russian occupants have recently started taking out crushed stone, iron ore and unique clay – kaolin. Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine has been among leading suppliers of high quality ceramic clay in the world. Its main reserves are located in Donetsk oblast. Now Russian occupants steal and sell it worldwide.

«European manufacturers of sanitary ware buy our «white clay» and produce high quality ware. Then, expensive toilet bowls under well-known European brands are exported to Russia», as told Julia Maksimova, the Russian supervisor of the Mariupol port and protégé of Marat Khusnullin, the Deputy Head of the Cabinet of Ministries of the Russian Federation.

Storage of kaolin in the port of Mariupol, September 2023. Photo: screenshot of the video of Russian propagandists

Kaolin is stored in the port of Mariupol and then exported for the production and worldwide sale of high quality sanitary ware. This ware is often bought by rich Russians whereas ordinary Russians are able to get high quality toilet bowls and baths only as war trophies in Ukraine.

The statement of Julia Maksimova about export of kaolin from occupied Mariupol is the confession of guilt about Russian war crimes in Ukraine. It should be closely analyzed by the Ukrainian law enforcement bodies and authorities imposing sanctions.

«There are investment proposals about the production of sanitary ware from kaolin on the territory of Donetsk People’s Republic. I hope that this project will be implemented and sanitary ware will be exported with an assistance of our fleet», as announced Julia Maksimova to Russian propagandists in the port of Mariupol, ruined and looted by Russian troops.


Maksimova calls «a fleet» a number of foreign ships stolen by Russians in the port of Mariupol, «river-sea» type, barges and other small old cargo ships owned by unknown operators from Turkey and China.

Russian has actively leased bulkers from ship owners, ignored by world leading traders, since last summer.

However, Moscow pirate fleet may lose the job during winter. Shallow Azov Sea is easily frozen by frost. Ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk are freezing ports. There were times when the navigation in the Azov Sea was stalled for several months.

«Rosmorrichflot» informed at the beginning of the winter that all tugboats and icebreakers were prepared for the winter. Russian occupants seized and illegally expropriated Ukrainian icebreaker «Kapitan Bilousov» in the port of Mariupol.

Russia needs ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol as centers of military logistics. Ships and motor boats of the Russian Black Sea Fleet have been stationed in both ports since the beginning of the Russian occupation.

As Mariupol partisans report, Mariupol port is now full scale military base of the Russian occupation troops, with testing ground, warehouses of ammunition and places for helicopters. Russian occupants have already resumed supply of armed vehicles and weapons on civil barges to Berdyansk port at night time.

Transportation of stolen grain and other products covers pure military purposes – to create human shield from the personnel and equipment of ports.