The Zhibek Zholy is a Russian-flagged cargo ship.

It is 140 meters long, 17 meters wide and can carry 7100 tons of cargo.

It's not exactly big for the seas of the world, but it's big enough to navigate the Black Sea, the Mediterranean or estuaries like the Danube - and to pick up and unload cargo in small ports.

Andreas Mihm

Business correspondent for Austria, Central and Eastern Europe and Turkey based in Vienna.

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At the moment, however, the freighter, which was commissioned in 2016, is not running, it has been lying off the Turkish coast since Sunday.

Ship trackers locate it off the coast of Karasu, less than 200 kilometers east of the entrance to the Bosphorus.

He is lying there because the Turkish authorities arrested him.

Because the ship is said to have loaded grain.

The Ukrainian government claims the Russians stole it.

Turkish customs arrested the ship on Sunday, and according to a report by the Bloomberg news agency, Turkish investigators are now investigating the origin of the grain on board.

For Kyiv, that alone is a diplomatic success.

Combat drones, but no sanctions

While Turkey has condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine, it is trying to maintain good contacts with both sides.

For them, the "Zhilek Zholy" case is uncomfortable.

The government in Ankara supplies Ukraine with combat drones and does not support the West's sanctions against Russia.

Negotiations with Russian and Ukrainian government representatives took place several times in Turkey, albeit unsuccessfully, about a possible ceasefire, most recently about the export of grain, on which many countries bordering the Mediterranean and other countries depend.

Ukraine and Russia are among the world's largest grain exporters.

Ukraine has long accused Russia of transporting grain and other products from the occupied territories.

It was only on Monday that the state information service from Mariupol reported that the occupiers would use small river boats to transport rolled goods and grain to loading platforms in “neutral” waters off the coast of Kerch and then transfer them to larger cargo ships for onward transport.

"On the way to friendly countries"

It is said to be similar in the case of the detained grain freighter.

The Ukrainian ambassador in Ankara, Vasyl Bodnar, had previously called on Turkey to take "necessary measures" because its stolen grain cargo came from the occupied Ukrainian port of Berdkyansk on the north shore of the Azov Sea.

According to media reports, the head of the pro-Russian government, Evgeny Balitsky, also posted on Telegram on June 30: “After many months of delay, the first merchant ship has left the trading port of Berdyansk, 7,000 tons of grain are on their way to friendly countries. "

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed on Monday that the ship has Russian owners, but details still have to be clarified.

"The ship is really under the Russian flag, but I think it belongs to Kazakhstan and the cargo was transported under a contract between Estonia and Turkey," he told journalists.

Erdogan confident

Turkey has a keen interest in restarting grain exports.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that about 20 ships would be ready in the region to transport the grain on behalf of Ukraine once an agreement was reached.

"We will try to transport these products and re-export them to third countries," Erdogan said.

However, Russia is demanding that Western sanctions be lifted in order to release the ports.

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, about 22 million tons of grain from last year's harvest are still waiting to be exported.

“We expect about 60 million tons for the autumn.

The situation is very difficult," he said at the beginning of the week.

Nevertheless, there is little progress with exports to Romania and Central Europe.

According to Kyiv, 1.74 million tons of grain were exported in May, after just 200,000 tons in March.

If logistics continue to improve, it is possible to increase exports to 2.5 million tons per month.

That would be about 50 percent of the pre-war level, said the deputy chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council.

Meanwhile, Zelensky assured that his government is fighting at all diplomatic levels to ensure that countries do not buy grain from Russian suppliers that they have stolen from the blocked Ukrainian ports.

The "Zhibek Zholy" is to remain off the coast of until the investigations into the origin of the grain have been completed.

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