A Syrian ship that Ukraine claims is transporting stolen Ukrainian grain has sailed out of a Lebanese port, according to a tweet from the country’s transport minister on Thursday.
The 10,000 tons of wheat flour and barley being transported by the Syrian-flagged Laodicea have been moored at the port of Tripoli since last Thursday. Russia disputes Ukraine’s accusation that it stole the grain.
Ihor Ostash, the ambassador of Ukraine to Lebanon, pleaded with Lebanon on Wednesday to prevent the ship from leaving the port.
A judge ruled that the Laodicea may depart on Wednesday, a day after Lebanon’s prosecutor general approved the ship’s departure after an inquiry revealed it was not transporting grain from Ukraine that had been stolen.
The Syrian-flagged Laodicea is now outside of Lebanon’s territorial seas, according to a tweet from Transport Minister Ali Hamie.
Although the ship’s direction was not immediately known, Marine Traffic, a website that tracks ship traffic and locations, suggested that it was headed in the direction of the Syrian shore.
The departure of Laodicea is sure to enrage Ukraine. The Russian diplomatic mission in Lebanon applauded the action and charged Ukraine with fabricating the shipment in an effort to sour ties with Moscow and Beirut.
The Syrian ship was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2015 because to its connection to President Bashar Assad’s administration in Syria, which is a close political and military ally of Moscow.
As the first grain ship to leave Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in late February, a fight over the Laodicea broke out. On its way to Lebanon, the Razoni, flying the flag of Sierra Leone, was traveling via Turkey with 26,000 tons of Ukrainian maize.
The ship is anticipated to arrive in Lebanon from Istanbul after being checked in roughly four days, a Lebanese official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Russia and its sympathizers in Beirut were enraged when Lebanon denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The cargoes arrive as Lebanon has a severe food security crisis, including skyrocketing food prices, a wheat shortfall, and bread shortages. Its population is impoverished to a third.