Turkey released the Russian grain carrier Zhibek Zholy, which was detained off the Turkish coast at the weekend at the request of Ukraine.

According to data from Internet shipping trackers, the ship was on its way to Russia on Thursday.

The government in Kyiv had declared that the 7,000 tons of grain on the ship came from the areas occupied by Russia and had been stolen from Ukraine.

Andreas Mihm

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

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Turkish officials said earlier this week that they would investigate the case.

Russia, on the other hand, has denied that the ship, which is anchored off the Turkish port of Karasu, is transporting stolen goods and that it is being held there.

In Kyiv, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador.

"We regret that the Russian ship Zibek Zholy, full of stolen Ukrainian grain, was allowed to leave the port of Karasu despite evidence of criminal activity being presented to the Turkish authorities," the spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry tweeted.

We are "very disappointed" with this information and expect a comprehensive explanation for this "unacceptable situation".

500,000 tons of grain confiscated?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently accused Russia of stealing stored food.

The invaders have seized half a million tons of grain and are trying to sell it.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian ports are blocked because of the war.

Grain exports account for a fifth of the country's export volume in normal times.

That is largely gone now.

Turkey is a major importer of wheat.

Because of the supply failure, the prices for wheat and corn on the world markets have risen drastically.

The United Nations is concerned about the food supply in poor countries.

The government in Kyiv claims it has provided Turkey with criminal evidence that the Russian ship was loading stolen grain.

It wasn't the first time either.

Taras Vysotskiy, Ukraine's first deputy minister of agriculture, told Reuters that Kyiv estimates about 400,000 tons of stolen grain were exported.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Vasyl Bodnar said evidence had been sent to Turkish authorities that 13 ships were involved in the transport.

Ukrainian authorities had named three ships sailing under the Russian flag.

Their Russian shipping company is subject to Western economic sanctions, which Turkey does not apply.

Despite the war, the country is trying to maintain good neighborly relations with Ukraine and Russia.

Combat drones are being delivered to Ukraine, and Turkey is getting gas and food from Russia.

Conversely, Turkey shipped $460 million worth of fruit and vegetables to Russia in the first half of the year alone, barely less than last year, according to the Aegean Association of Fruit and Vegetable Exporters.

Ukraine insists on security guarantees

Meanwhile, safe export routes for grain from Ukrainian ports continue to be negotiated, with Turkey playing a key role.

Kyiv's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Bloomberg agency the talks focused on delivery routes and security arrangements for cargo ships.

"We are only a few steps away from the deal, but these steps are the most difficult.

I don't want to join the chorus of those saying we have an agreement next week," Kuleba said.

So far there has been no agreement on securing Odessa, Ukraine's largest seaport, from Russian attacks or on foreign escort ships guarding freighters carrying non-military cargo.

"We need firm guarantees," said the minister, while at the same time expressing skepticism about whether Moscow was even ready for an agreement.