Kazakh media: an Estonian company exports grain from occupied Ukraine

Mikk Salu
, ajakirjanik
Photo: Yuri KADOBNOV/Scanpix Baltics
  • Turkey has arrested a grain carrier at Ukraine’s request.
  • Owners of the ship argue that an Estonian company was involved in the grain business.
  • Ukraine claims that the grain has been stolen from the occupied areas.

A few days ago, at the request of the Ukrainian prosecutor's office, Turkey seized the grain ship «Zhibek Zholy» belonging to the Kazakh enterprise KTZ. The ship is currently anchored in the Black Sea near the Turkish port city of Karasu. Ukraine accuses that the ship is used to transport grain stolen from Ukraine. This refers to grain from the Ukrainian territories conquered and occupied by Russia.

Various Ukrainian sources have estimated the ship's cargo to be between 4,500 and 7,000 tons of grain, and it is indicated that the ship started its journey from the port of Berdyansk, which was captured by the Russian forces in February of this year. Reuters also writes that an official appointed by the Russian authorities to be responsible for the occupied Zaporizhzhia territories confirmed that the first grain ship with a load of 7,000 tons left Berdyansk after a pause of several months.

The «Zhibek Zholy», seized by Turkey, sails under the Russian flag, but belongs to the Kazakhstan state railway company KTZ. KTZ announces in a press release that although the ship belongs to them, they have nothing to do with this grain business and it is handled by the Estonian company OÜ Mangelbert. «They (Mangelbert) confirmed that they have all the licenses for the transaction,» reads the Kazakh press release.

Mangelbert is an Estonian company with a long record, whose main activity is indeed the purchase and sale of grain. The annual turnover of the company has remained in the range of 6-7 million euros in recent years, but last year saw a sudden jump – the turnover was 20 million euros. Out of this 20 million, as much as 10 million came from grain exports to Turkey. Switzerland holds the second place with a turnover of 6 million euros.

The property of entrepreneur Sergei Puhno is behind Lake Saadjärv by Lake Soitsjärv.
The property of entrepreneur Sergei Puhno is behind Lake Saadjärv by Lake Soitsjärv. Photo: Postimees

The owner of Mangelbert is Sergey Pukhno. Little is known about him. Eesti Ekspress wrote a few years ago that Pukhno, who was born in Tartu, but now runs a business in St. Petersburg, is building a copy of Kadriorg palace near Saadjärv in Tartu county. Locals call him the grain king of St. Petersburg.

Postimees called and mailed to the addresses provided on the website of Mangelbert, but no one answers. Therefore, it remains unknown what the Estonian company has to say about the Ukrainian grain business on the Black Sea. In the same way, the Estonian State Prosecutor's Office remained tight-lipped; according to them the information is so scarce that they cannot comment anything yet.

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is more eloquent: «Russia brazenly uses the destruction, theft and blocking of Ukrainian grain as a weapon in its brutal war against Ukraine. As a result, threats to global food security have increased. Estonia has condemned such actions of Russia and does not consider it right that Estonian companies contribute to such actions and thereby support Russia's illegal and inhumane war against Ukraine.» On the other hand it is probably not a violation of sanctions against Russia, the ministry added.

Mangelbert certainly cannot be accused of anything yet. Little is known even about their role in the grain trade there. However, the issue is important. Russia occupies a considerable part of Ukraine and does what it wants there. Ukraine said that the Russians were stealing Ukrainian grain, and the «Zhibek Zholy» was also transporting stolen grain. The ship owners from Kazakhstan in turn said in turn that they do not know anything and point at the Estonian company.