Syrian ship with grain Ukraine says was stolen leaves Lebanon

Aug 4 (Reuters) - A Syrian ship which Ukraine says is carrying grain stolen by invading Russian forces left Lebanon on Thursday en route to Syria, a Lebanese minister said.

The Laodicea had docked in Lebanon's Tripoli port on July 27 with some 5,000 tonnes of barley and 5,000 tonnes of flour that Kyiv said was plundered from Ukrainian stores.

A Lebanese judge had issued a 72-hour seizure order on Monday but it was lifted on Wednesday night. A release order issued by the Tripoli port said the ship would be allowed to leave "in accordance with Lebanese law" but did not say what Lebanon made of Ukraine's accusation.

Lebanon's caretaker transport minister Ali Hamie told Reuters on Thursday that the ship had sailed. MarineTraffic shipping data showed it off the Syrian coast near Tartus.

The Laodicea is one of three Syrian-owned ships sanctioned since 2015 by the United States for their alleged role in the conflict raging in Syria over the last decade.

Those same three ships have been accused by the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut of regularly transporting stolen grains to Syria since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Syrian officials have not responded to multiple requests for comment from Reuters on the ships' sanctioning and on their role in the transport of alleged stolen grain.

Russia denies stealing Ukrainian grain. Its embassy in Lebanon said it had no information on the cargo.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry on Thursday urged Lebanon to reconsider its decision to let the ship go.

Reporting by Maya Gebeily; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Cawthorne

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