Russian forces are stealing agricultural equipment and thousands of tonnes of grain from Ukrainian farmers in areas they have occupied, and targeting food storage sites with artillery, multiple sources told Les actualites.
The phenomenon has accelerated in recent weeks as Russian units have tightened their grip on parts of the rich agricultural regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, the sources said. Seeding operations in many areas have since been halted or abandoned.
The actions of Russian forces could threaten this year’s harvest in one of the world’s largest grain-producing countries. The volumes involved would be enormous.
Oleg Nivievskyi, an agrarian specialist at the Kyiv School of Economics, told Les Actualites that on the eve of the invasion, six million tonnes of wheat and 15 million tonnes of corn were ready for export from Ukraine, including much of it was in the south of the country.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that around 400,000 tonnes of grain had been stolen so far.
Farmers and others in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provided Les actualites with details of several thefts.
In late April, Russian soldiers removed 1,500 tonnes of grain from storage units known as elevators in the Kherson village of Mala Lepetykha, using trucks bearing Crimean license plates. The next day, those same trucks – 35 in all – returned and emptied large storage units called grain silos near Novorajsk, across the Dnieper River.
In Melitopol, an occupied town in the Zaporizhzhia region, Mayor Ivan Fedorov shared a video with Les Actualites showing trucks – several bearing the Russian army “Z” sign – transporting grain to Crimea. The city’s main elevator had been emptied.
Fedorov told Les actualites that the Russians “went around every village, every meter and looked for agricultural machinery, grain, which they then looted.”
“Chechen soldiers, fighting for Russia, acted like criminals in the 1990s. First, they offered to buy grain at a ridiculously low price. But if you don’t agree, they take everything for nothing.
“The scale of the looting is simply overwhelming,” he said.
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