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Ukraine’s first grain ship sails after Russia relaxes Black Sea blockade

A shipment of grain left the port of Odessa for the first time in months, in a crucial test of a deal between Russia and Ukraine designed to ease rising global food prices.

A Sierra Leone-flagged tanker carrying 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn left the Black Sea port at 9:48 a.m. local time, the infrastructure ministry said, after weeks of negotiations mediated by Turkey and the United Nations.

This is the first such vessel to depart from Odessa since the end of February, then Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking a conflict that has left up to 47 million people worldwide at risk of acute hunger, according to the World Food Program. The Ukrainian government said 16 more ships were awaiting departure.

“This is a welcome first step towards reducing the global food crisis which has been exacerbated by Russia’s illegitimate aggression and blockade of Ukrainian ports, in addition to the mining and destruction of fields in Ukraine,” said an EU official.

“We look forward to the implementation of the entire deal. . . . The negative consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the blockade of Ukrainian ports affect the most vulnerable people in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.”

The Razoni was due to arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Joint Coordination Center, which was set up under the UN-led grain deal.

After arriving in the city, it was expected to undergo inspections at the center, which is staffed by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations officials as part of the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said the Razoni would take its cargo to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Koleva hailed it as a “day of relief” for major importers of Ukrainian grain, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, while the US Embassy in Kyiv said it expected “continued implementation” of the agreement.

The Kremlin described the ship’s departure as “extremely positive” news. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that the resumption of commercial maritime traffic in the Black Sea is “a good opportunity to test the effectiveness of the functioning of the mechanisms” within the framework of an agreement concluded in Istanbul to allow Ukraine to export grain.

“We hope that all agreements will be fulfilled by all parties and the mechanism will work effectively,” Peskov said, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

The 16 other ships captured in Odessa and nearby ports after the invasion are carrying a tiny fraction of the more than 22 million tons of wheat, corn and other grains left in the country.

Ukraine said it is starting to accept requests for new vessels to collect grain, and hopes to reach full capacity within weeks.

But owners of vessels entering Odessa are still working out the logistics of insuring their ships, cargo and crew, which was complicated by Russian missile strikes at the port late last month that injured several people.

Private international operators are in a “wait and see” mode, said a person familiar with the matter, with many ships long since assigned to different routes.

Russia claimed it had hit military infrastructure and sunk a Ukrainian naval vessel, while Ukraine said the attack, a day after the agreement was signed, would jeopardize or delay the implementation of the export agreement.

Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of Europe, is The world’s fifth largest exporter of grains. It accounts for 80% of Lebanon’s wheat imports and is a major supplier to countries including Somalia, Syria and Libya.

Additional reporting by Alice Hancock

Ukraine’s first grain ship sails after Russia relaxes Black Sea blockade Source link Ukraine’s first grain ship sails after Russia relaxes Black Sea blockade

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