(Reuters) – One of two breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions backed by Moscow on Thursday said it would soon start rail shipments to Russia of grain that its troops had “liberated”, Tass news agency reported.
Yuri Pronko, agricultural minister of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said that until now, the grain had been sent by truck in relatively small amounts.
“Tomorrow is a historical moment – the first wagons of grain will go Russia, 50 wagons, more than 3,000 tonnes,” Tass cited him as saying.
Ukraine had previously accused Russia of stealing its grain from the territories Moscow occupied since launching what it calls a special military operation in February.
Tass said grain elevators “in the liberated part” of the Luhansk republic contained around 300,000 tonnes of winter wheat and 200,000 tonnes of sunflower seeds, which it referred to as the remains of previous harvests. It did not give details.
Pronko said the elevators were about half full and to free them up for future harvests, around 120 to 130 wagons of grain would have to be exported every day.
Russia and Ukraine have been in a deadlock over grain exports from Ukrainian ports. Russia has seized large parts of Ukraine’s coast, blocking farm exports and driving up the cost of grain.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by David Evans and Jonathan Oatis)