CNN obtained a decision from a court in Kyiv on July 20 granting authorities permission to seize the ship. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office asked the court to “prevent representatives of the registered owner, the actual owner, the operator, the lessee and any other persons from taking measures to dispose, use or dispose of the specified property, including by preventing them from leaving the port of Chornomorsk”.
It was not immediately clear when the Ukrainian authorities moved to seize the ships, but sources in the shipping industry told CNN that it happened last week. A shipping source, who declined to be registered in the registry due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the Ukrainian authorities moved to seize the ship because they wanted to seize any potential Russian assets.
“The ship is under arrest and is not allowed to leave port,” a Ukrainian official confirmed to CNN Friday. The official has not been identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly. A second source familiar with operations in Chornomorsk confirmed that the ship had been seized.
A source in the shipping industry told CNN that the Emakris III was loaded with about 60,000 tons of grain already purchased by the Egyptian government. The ship has been stranded in Chornomorsk since the start of the Russian invasion in February.
In the months following the invasion, Ukraine persistently complained that Russian aggression in the Black Sea had paralyzed commercial shipping, and Ukrainian officials specifically referred to the Emmakris III. “Russia is blocking a ship bound for Egypt loaded with Ukrainian wheat purchased by Egypt,” the Ukrainian embassy in Cairo said on Facebook in April.
Russia said Ukrainian mining of coastal waters was responsible for halting shipping.
Now the Ukrainians are preventing the ship from leaving. The prosecution said in the Kyiv court case that while Emmakris III is ostensibly owned by a company in Dubai, its “actual owner” is a Russian shipping company based in Rostov-on-Don called Leinter.
CNN has reached out to Linter and the Russian Ministry of Defense. At the time of publication, neither of them had responded.
Linter is also included in shipping databases as the owner of Emmakris II, which is allegedly involved in transporting stolen grain from occupied parts of Ukraine. Linter’s website includes images of Emmakris II in the Black Sea.
A weeks-long CNN investigation based on satellite images, photos and shipping data showed that the Emmakris II spent several days moored off the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia annexed at the end of June.
She received several visits from a smaller ship which had carried the grain in the port – and which appears to have carried its cargo to Emmakris II.
The smaller ship, M Andreev, also registered with Linter, was photographed carrying in Sevastopol days before it went to the side of the Emmakris II, according to a shipping source in Sevastopol.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns.
Shipping sources told CNN there were frequent reloads of grain to bulk carriers that had been below Sevastopol for several months.
The Emmakris II set off from anchorage on July 6 and was photographed passing through the Bosphorus four days later.
MarineTraffic’s ship tracking service shows it passing through the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman, with its destination identified as the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. But his transceiver, or tracker, was turned off on July 22.
In several cases, CNN reported, ports in Egypt and Lebanon refused to accept the grain after pleas from the Ukrainian government. At least two shipments ended up in a Syrian port.
The Russian authorities in Crimea acknowledged this trade but insisted that the grain be legally purchased. In June, the head of the Crimean administration, Sergei Aksyonov, said that “the grain from the liberated lands goes to the Republic of Crimea, and then goes to Sevastopol for sale.”
Last month, Ukrainian authorities estimated that at least half a million tons of Ukrainian grain were illegally shipped by the Russians.
Nick Robertson, Josh Pennington, Gianluca Mezofiori and Katie Polglass contributed to this report.