The Claim and Our Verdict
- The claim: Several photos circulating online claim to show the Chinese food conglomerate China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO)’s warehouse in Ukraine being bombed by Russia.
- The photo of the explosion actually shows Port Nika-Tera being bombarded June 4, 2022 by the Russian army. COFCO’s warehouse is located in Nikolaev Sea Port. Port Nika-Tera and Nikolaev Sea Port are both in Nikolaev, Ukraine, but they are more than 10 kilometers away from each other.
- Our verdict: These photos do not show Chinese trader COFCO’s warehouse in Ukraine being bombed by Russia.
A Weibo post containing two photos was published June 8, 2022. The simplified Chinese-language post translates as: “The Russian army bombed COFCO’s warehouse in Ukraine. This is the second time they have bombed the facility, while the first one took place in April.” The post indicates that COFCO’s warehouse in Ukraine was bombed by Russia during the Russia–Ukraine war. A similar Facebook post can be found here.
At the time of this report’s publication, the post had been shared 59 times, and had garnered 48 comments and 457 likes.
According to the official website of China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), it is China’s largest market-oriented grain enterprise and the major importer and exporter of soybeans, wheat, corn, sugar, and other agricultural products. On May 19, 2016, the Danube Shipping and Stevedoring Company (DSSC) Terminal in Nikolaev, Ukraine, which was funded by COFCO, started operating.
1. The photo of the explosion shows Port Nika-Tera being bombarded by the Russian army
A reverse image search found an article published June 4, 2022 by the Nikolaev local media organization Novosti-N. The photo shared in the Novosti-N article is identical to the photo of the explosion in the Weibo post.
The Novosti-N article claims that the Nika-Tera port was shelled on the evening of June 4, and that the smoke of the bombing was visible throughout Nikolaev city.
Port Nika-Tera is located in Mykolaiv (also known as Nikolaev), Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine. It has an oil transshipment complex and three more specialized cargo areas: a grain complex, a fertilizer transshipment complex, and a bulk cargo transshipment complex.
Several photos and videos of Port Nika-Tera have been uploaded on the port’s official Facebook page. Below are comparisons between the photos shared on the port’s official Facebook page and the photo shared in the Weibo post, with corresponding building features indicated in red:
On June 7, 2022, the Ukraine-based Group DF published a statement: “Reports indicate further targeted destruction of Ukrainian economic infrastructure by Russian troops. The port complex ‘Nika-Tera,’ south of Mykolayiv at the mouth of the Bug-Dnieper River to the Black Sea, has come under massive shelling… On Saturday (June 4, 2022), the port terminals suffered from the most massive attacks thus far, rendering the port facilities entirely unusable.” According to the official website of Group DF, a company of the group acquired a controlling stake in Port Nika-Tera in 2011.
The photo of the explosion shared in the Weibo post actually shows Ukraine’s Port Nika-Tera being shelled by the Russian army. A keyword search on the official websites of COFCO and COFCO International found that the food conglomerate does not own any facilities in Port Nika-Tera.
2. COFCO’s warehouse is located in Nikolaev Port
A reverse image search of the port photo shared in the Weibo post was conducted. An episode of the program “Homeland, Dreamland” broadcast Aug.10, 2018 by China’s state-run CCTV was found. The Weibo photo was captured from the 23-second mark of the episode’s video. At the 25:21 mark, the Chinese-language narration translates as: “Let us follow Li Junnan, office manager of COFCO International, to the grain and oil terminal in Nikolaev, which was funded and built by COFCO.”
A press release published Aug. 5, 2021 by COFCO reads, “Nikolaev Port is the beating heart of COFCO International’s operations in Ukraine. Arriving from farms and silos as far as 500km away, sunflower oil and meal, wheat, barley, corn and other food commodities are shipped by the company to places near and far—Europe, Africa, Middle East, and around Asia.” Below is a comparison of the photo shared in the press release, a screenshot of the CCTV program, and the Weibo photo with the corresponding warehouse building:
The press release also includes a photo of COFCO’s DSSC Terminal at Nikolaev Port. The port photo shared in the Weibo post shows COFCO’s warehouse at Nikolaev Port.
After searching Google Maps, it was found that Nikolaev Port is also known as Nikolaev Sea Port. Below is the warehouse building at Nikolaev Sea Port found on Google Street View, identical to the one shown in the photos published on COFCO’s official website:
As shown on Google Maps, there is a 15.7-kilometer distance between Nikolaev Sea Port (where COFCO’s warehouse is located) and Port Nika-Tera (the port shelled by Russia). The two photos shared in the Weibo post, therefore, show two different ports. The building in the photo of the explosion is not COFCO’s warehouse.
Keyword searches on COFCO’s official website, main international media outlets, and Ukraine’s local media organizations produce no information that COFCO’s DSSC Terminal in Ukraine was damaged.
This photo does not show Chinese trader COFCO’s warehouse in Ukraine being bombed by Russia.
- Weibo, post, June 8, 2022.
- Facebook, post, June 8, 2022.
- COFCO, “About COFCO.”
- COFCO, “COFCO invests in Ukraine’s most advanced grain and oil transshipment terminal,” May 23, 2016.
- НОВОСТИ N, “Российские войска обстреляли порт “Ника-Тера” в Николаеве,” June 4, 2022.
- Vessel Tracker, Nika-Tera (Port).
- Center for Transport Strategies, “Порт Ника-Тера построил новый маслоперевалочный комплекс мощностью 500 тыс. тонн в год,” Aug. 28, 2017.
- Facebook, photo, Jan. 14, 2021.
- Facebook, video, Oct. 19, 2021.
- Group DF, “Statement by Lanny J. Davis, U.S. Co-counsel to Dmytro Firtash,” June 7, 2022.
- Group DF, History.
- CCTV, “‘Homeland, Dreamland’ One Belt One Road (414): China’s friendship in Nikolaev, Ukraine,” Aug. 10, 2018.
- COFCO International, “COFCO around the world: Ukraine – a solid partnership with potential to grow,” Aug. 5, 2021.
- Google Maps.