Russian-appointed head in Kherson Oblast linked to illegal agriculture exports

Volodymyr Saldo
Volodymyr Saldo

Russian-appointed Volodymyr Saldo, the "head" of the occupied part of Kherson Oblast, and a local commission have allowed the illegal export of Ukrainian agricultural products to Russian companies at zero or reduced export customs rates, Schemes project reported on June 6.

A joint investigation by the Belarusian Investigative Center and Russian media outlet Verstka, based on leaked documents from the oblast provided by the Ukrainian hacker group KibOrg, data from Import Genius, and information from a Russian customs leak, reveals significant illegal grain exports from occupied Kherson Oblast.

Read also: Dragon Capital raises warning bells over increased pressure on business from authorities

Russian exporters managed to export at least 34,000 tons of grain, valued at EUR 6.2 million ($6.75 million), from Kherson Oblast in 2023 through a quota system established by Russian authorities. The grain was sent to Azerbaijan, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, while peas from occupied Crimea were exported to Spain.

Sim-Trans Group exported 2,200 tons of wheat to Azerbaijan under a “quota permit.” TD Fregat received a quota to export 3,000 tons of corn to Syria, and Pallada LLC exported 11,000 tons of barley to Iran using the Mikhail Nenashev, previously implicated in illegal grain export schemes. Agro-Fregat exported wheat and meslin to Turkey and 4,500 tons of peas to Spain, loaded in occupied Sevastopol.

Read also: Russian exporters restricted in UN WFP tenders, flour orders drop

The companies did not respond to journalists' inquiries.

Following the "annexation" of four Ukrainian oblasts, the Russian government issued Resolution No. 2535, establishing quotas and a customs discount for agricultural exports from occupied territories. Russian companies applied to the "head of Oblast" for reduced or zero tariffs. In occupied Kherson Oblast, a commission, including Ukrainian politicians who collaborated with Russia, distributed quotas. The commission's final decisions were approved by Saldo.

Read also: Lithuanian surimi manufacturer Vici to sell its Russian business

Commission members include:

  • Eduard Repilevsky, former Kherson regional council deputy from the banned OPFL party

  • Petro Zbarovskyi, former head of Novotroitsk village council

  • Oleksiy Skopich, former Kakhovka district council deputy from OPFL

  • Serhiy Usenko, so-called "deputy minister of agriculture" appointed by Russia.

<span class="copyright">Schemes</span>

On May 31, the General Prosecutor's Office announced an investigation into Russia's embezzlement of over 1,700 tons of Ukrainian agricultural products.

On June 6, Ukraine's SBU Security Service reported identifying 18 collaborators who joined "authorities" and "local councils" in occupied Luhansk Oblast last September. Evidence against them has been collected. The SBU notified all suspects of collaboration under Part 5 of Article 111-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Five have been referred to court, facing possible prison sentences of up to 10 years and property confiscation.

We’re bringing the voice of Ukraine to the world. Support us with a one-time donation, or become a Patron!

Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine