Russian troops occupying the city of Melitopol, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast of southeastern Ukraine, have stolen all the equipment from a John Deere dealership and shipped it to Chechnya. However, after a 1,100 kilometre journey, it was discovered that the looted equipment had been locked remotely by the Ukrainians, rendering it inoperative.
The source told CNN: “When the invaders drove the stolen harvesters to Chechnya, they realised that they could not even turn them on, because the harvesters were locked remotely.”
Two combine harvesters, worth $300,000 (£240,000) each, and a tractor and a seeder were initially seized, according to a source at the scene.
Over the next few weeks in Melitopol, the remaining 27 pieces of farm machinery were stolen, totalling nearly $5 million (£3.9 million) worth of looted goods.
Kharkiv resident Maria Avdeeva, a research director at the European Expert Association, tweeted: “Now Russia confiscates grain en masse from farmers in the occupied territories of Kherson region.
“In Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, local deputies ordered to forcibly expropriate crops and vegetables from Ukrainian farmers.
“That’s what Soviets did to the Ukrainians – starved us to death.”
Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy announced on Saturday that Russian forces stole “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain in the areas they occupied.
Speaking to Ukrainian national TV, Mr Vysotskiy expressed concern that most of what he said was 1.5 million tonnes of grain stored in occupied territory could also be stolen by Russian forces.
The mayor continued: “The Russians are using the tactics of the early 20th century to steal grain and export it from Ukraine.
“Today we have confirmed facts that several hundred thousand tons of grain have already been exported from Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk regions.”
Before Russia’s renewed invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, the country was a top-10 agricultural producer.
Ukraine is the top producer of sunflower oil, accounting for 50 percent of global exports, according to the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club.
Kyiv is the second biggest exporter of honey, third largest exporter of rapeseed and barley, fourth in corn and fifth in wheat.
On May 2, Russian projectiles struck a grain warehouse and silo in the southeastern region of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, said Valentyn Reznychenko, the head of the region’s military administration.