American diplomats have claimed Russia is seeking buyers for plundered Ukrainian grain, according to the NYT

The United States has accused the Kremlin of trying to profit from plundered Ukrainian grain by selling it to drought-stricken countries in Africa, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

According to the report, in mid-May, the US warned 14 countries, mostly in Africa, that Russian cargo vessels were leaving ports near Ukraine laden with what a State Department cable described as “stolen Ukrainian grain.”

Washington was echoing the Ukrainian government’s accusation that Russia had stolen up to 500,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat, worth $100 million, since the start of its military operation. Kiev has claimed that much of that has been trucked to ports in Russian Crimea, then transferred to ships, including some under Western sanctions.

According to the newspaper, “the American alert about the grain has only sharpened the dilemma for African countries, many already feeling trapped between East and West,” as they are struggling with a severe food crisis.

READ MORE: African Union wants Russian sanctions lifted

As two major global breadbaskets, Russia and Ukraine normally supply about 40% of Africa’s wheat, where prices for the grain have risen 23% in the past year.

The United Nations has warned that the continent is facing the worst hunger in decades as global food prices soar.

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