By SUSIE BLANN and SUZAN FRASER
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain left Monday from the port of Odessa as part of an internationally brokered deal to unblock the embattled country’s agricultural exports and ease a growing global food crisis .
The cargo ship Razoni, flying the flag of Sierra Leone, honked its horn as it slowly departed with more than 26,000 tonnes of maize bound for Lebanon.
“The first grain ship since the Russian aggression has left the port,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter.
Russia and Ukraine signed agreements in Istanbul with Turkey and the UN on July 22, paving the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products stuck in the ports of the Black Sea due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than five months ago. . The agreements also allow Russia to export grain and fertilizers.
As part of these agreements, safe corridors through mined waters outside Ukrainian ports have been established.
Ukraine and Russia are the world’s main suppliers of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower oil, with the fertile Black Sea region long known as Europe’s breadbasket. The blockage of food shipments due to war has aggravated rising food prices around the world and threatened hunger and political instability in developing countries.
“Today Ukraine, together with its partners, takes another step towards preventing world hunger,” Kubrakov said.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the ship’s departure “very positive”, saying it would test “the effectiveness of the mechanisms agreed upon during the talks in Istanbul”.
The Razoni was due to dock Tuesday afternoon in Istanbul at the entrance to the Bosphorus, where joint teams of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials were due to board for inspections.
In an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned that the global food crisis threatened to trigger “a serious wave of migration from Africa to Europe and to Turkey. “.
Lebanon, the destination of maize, is in the grip of a serious financial crisis. A 2020 explosion at its main port of Beirut shattered its capital and destroyed grain silos. Lebanon mainly imports wheat from Ukraine but also buys its corn to make cooking oil and produce animal feed.
Turkey said other ships will also leave Ukrainian ports through security corridors. In Odessa, 16 other ships, all stranded since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, were waiting their turn, and more would follow, Ukrainian authorities said.
But some shipping lines are yet to rush to export food across the Black Sea as they assess the danger of mines in the waters and the risk of Russian rockets hitting grain warehouses and ports.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the shipments “will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security, especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts”.
Kubrakov said the expeditions would also help Ukraine’s war-shattered economy.
“Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year,” he said.
Hearing the horn of the ship as it sailed out of port delighted Olena Vitaievna, a resident of the city.
“Finally, life is starting to move forward and there are changes in a positive direction,” she said. “In general, the port should live its own life because Odessa is a port city. We live here. We want everything to work for us, everything to activate.
Still, the resumption of grain shipments came as fighting raged elsewhere in Ukraine, with Russia continuing its offensive in eastern Ukraine while Ukraine tried to reclaim territories in the Russian-occupied south. .
Ukraine’s presidential office said at least three civilians had been killed and 16 injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reiterated his call for the evacuation of all residents, stressing the need to evacuate around 52,000 children still in the area.
In Kharkiv, two people were injured by a Russian strike in the morning. One was hit while waiting for a bus and the other when a Russian shell exploded near a building.
The southern city of Mykolaiv also faced repeated shelling that destroyed a building at a hospital and damaged ambulances, according to regional governor Vitaliy Kim. Three civilians were injured in Russian shelling elsewhere in the city, he said.
Shortly after the grain shipment agreement was signed, a Russian missile targeted Odessa. Analysts have warned that continued fighting could further upend the grain deal.
“The departure of the first ship does not solve the food crisis; this is only the first step which could also be the last if Russia decides to continue attacks in the south,” said Volodymyr Sidenko, an expert at the Kyiv-based think tank Razumkov Center.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Jon Gambrell in Dubai contributed.