Former Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev has seized the lands of three major farming operators in Ukraine since the war bega, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing data from Ukrainian intelligence and Ukrainian farmers. Land seizures threaten to put a large portion of one of the world’s biggest grain harvests under Russian control.
According to the WSJ, Tkachev's company Agrocomplex has seized 400,000 acres of land (1,618 km²), thus becoming one of the largest farm operators in Ukraine. Dmitry Skornyakov, CEO of the Ukrainian agricultural company HarvEast Holding, told WSJ that HarvEast's land was split into three tranches after a feud between armed groups in May. As a result, 100,000 acres passed into the hands of Tkachev.
Agrocomplex “confiscated” another 50,000 acres from the Ukrainian farming company Nibulon. According to its CEO Andriy Vadaturskyy, Agrocomplex is now engaged in farming operations there. A third Ukrainian company, Agroton Public Ltd. accused Agrocomplex of seizing another 250,000 acres.
The WSJ’s interviewees said the seizure of Ukrainian farmlands began after Russia opened its occupation administrations in eastern Ukraine. After that, “LDNR” officials began visiting local farmers, sometimes with armed groups, and threatening them into signing property ownership documents in accordance with Russian laws. Some farmers were allowed to keep their land, but only if 70 percent of their crops would go to Russia and the “LDNR.”
According to Yuriy Zhuravlev, head of the Ukrainian company Agroton, he took a phone call in May from a man who introduced himself as “the minister of agriculture of the LNR”. He said that 250,000 acres of Agroton's land now belonged to Agrocomplex. Zhuravlev also said that 350,000 metric tons of wheat and sunflower seeds were stolen from his company.