UPDATE 2-Lebanon allows departure of ship accused of carrying stolen Ukrainian grain
By Timour Azhari
BEIRUT, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Lebanon's top prosecutor has lifted his seizure order on a ship accused by Ukraine of carrying stolen flour and barley, allowing it to sail after finding "no criminal offence committed", a senior judicial source told Reuters.
The ship, the Laodicea, remains unable to sail for the time being due to another seizure order issued by a judge in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where the ship is docked, on Monday, the source said.
That seizure order was only valid for 72 hours, the judge who issued it previously told Reuters.
An official at the Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut said he could not immediately comment, and that the embassy would hold a news conference on Wednesday.
Ukraine has said that the Syrian-flagged ship was carrying some 10,000 tonnes of flour and barley plundered by Russia from Ukrainian stores following its February invasion of the country.
The Russian Embassy in Lebanon has said it had no information on the cargo. Moscow has previously denied stealing Ukrainian grain.
An official from the company that owns the cargo previously denied it was stolen and said that the ship would sail to nearby Syria should it be allowed to leave Tripoli.
The Laodicea arrived in Lebanon on July 27 and two days later top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat ordered it seized pending investigations following a protest from the Ukrainian embassy and other Western nations.
On Monday, Ukraine asked Lebanon to cooperate on a criminal inquiry into the ship opened by a Ukrainian judge. Ukrainian authorities say the Laodicea travelled to a port in Russian-occupied Crimea closed to international shipping and that it took on cargo there before sailing to Lebanon.
Under a July 22 U.N.-brokered safe passage deal, the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets from its Black Sea ports since Russia's invasion looked set to arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday night, Turkey said.
The ship, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, is to proceed to its final destination in Tripoli in Lebanon after inspections by U.N., Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials.
A Ukrainian Embassy official said Kyiv resumed grain exports to Lebanon in mid-July via ports on the Danube river bordering Romania.
The embassy said Lebanon would receive preferential treatment due to its official stance against Russia's invasion and that Kyiv would support Beirut as it faces bread shortages due to a three-year-long financial crisis.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Heinrich)
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