Ukraine asks Lebanon to bar Syrian ship carrying 'stolen' corn from docking

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Ukrainian officials on Thursday asked Lebanon to bar a Syrian state-owned cargo ship carrying allegedly stolen Ukrainian grain from docking in Lebanon's Tripoli port, according to the Ukrainian embassy and a diplomatic note seen by Reuters.

The Ukrainian mission said in comments to Reuters that the Finikia was transporting 6,000 metric tons of corn, which it considered stolen, from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol.

In the note to Lebanon's ministries of transport, finance and economy, as well as the customs directorate, the embassy said the corn had been "stolen from storage units in the Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions".

It said the ship was "in violation of international law" and expressed its hope that Lebanon "does not allow the entry of the aforementioned cargo ship FINIKIA to Lebanese ports to sell stolen Ukrainian grain."

Lebanon's ministers of transportation and finance did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Syria's government and the Syrian General Authority for Maritime Transport, which owns the Finikia, did not immediately respond to written questions.

Lebanon's economy minister said he had not received a formal note but that the embassy had sent similar notes in the past.

Moscow has previously denied stealing Ukraine's grain.

According to MarineTraffic and a source at the Tripoli port, the ship had not yet docked there.

Last year, Ukraine raised the alarm when the Syrian-flagged Laodicea docked in Beirut carrying what Ukraine said was 10,000 metric tons of stolen flour and barley. Lebanon seized the ship but ultimately allowed it to leave. It sailed on to Syria.

Both the Finikia and the Laodicea are owned by the Syrian General Authority for Maritime Transport. The authority and the ships it owns have been sanctioned since 2015 by the United States for their alleged role in Syria's war.

Ukraine has estimated that 500,000 metric tons of what it calls plundered Ukrainian grain had arrived in Syria in 2022 since the February 2022 invasion, shipped from several ports.

A deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine's grain expired in July.

(Reporting by Maya Gebeily; editing by Jonathan Oatis)