Grain ship leaves Ukraine port for first time since Russia blockade

by Abdulhaqq Obisesan Oladimeji
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The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain set off from the port of Odesa on Monday under an internationally brokered deal that’s expected to release large stores of Ukrainian crops to foreign markets and ease a growing global hunger crisis.

The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni left Odesa for Lebanon, Turkey’s defense ministry said. A statement from the United Nations said the Razoni was carrying over 26,000 tons of corn.

Data from the Razoni’s Automatic Identification System, a safety tracker for ships at sea, showed the vessel slowly coming out from its berth at Odesa port Monday morning alongside a tug boat.

The ship is expected to reach Istanbul on Tuesday, where it will be inspected, before being allowed to proceed, the Turkish ministry said.

The corn will head to Lebanon, a tiny Mideast nation in the grips of what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst financial crises in more than 150 years. A 2020 explosion at its main port in Beirut shattered its capital city and destroyed grain silos there.

“The first grain ship since #RussianAggression has left port. Thanks to the support of all our partner countries & @UN we were able to full implement the Agreement signed in Istanbul,” the Reuters news agency quoted Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov as tweeting.

“Today Ukraine, together with partners, is taking another step towards preventing world hunger,” Kubrakov said adding it would also help Ukraine.

“Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year,” he said.

Agence France-Presse quotes Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as calling the development a “relief for the world.”

“The day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, as the first Ukrainian grain leaves Odesa after months of Russian blockade. Ukraine has always been a reliable partner and will remain one should Russia respect its part of the deal,” Kuleba tweeted.

The Turkish ministry statement said other ships would also depart Ukraine’s ports through the safe corridors in line with deals signed in Istanbul on July 22, but didn’t provide further details.

Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the U.N. clearing the way for Ukraine – one of the world’s key breadbaskets – to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports because of Russia’s invasion.

The deals also allow Russia to exports grain and fertilizers.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement he “warmly welcomes” the ship’s departure.

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