Los Angeles Times

Ship with Ukrainian grain clears inspection­s

Vessel carrying tons of corn is part of a deal with Russia for a safe shipping corridor.

- By Zeynep Bilginsoy Bilginsoy writes for the Associated Press.

ISTANBUL — The first grain ship to leave Ukraine and cross the Black Sea under a wartime deal passed inspection Wednesday in Istanbul and headed on to Lebanon. Ukraine said 17 other vessels were “loaded and waiting permission to leave,” but there was no word yet on when they could depart.

A joint civilian inspection team spent three hours checking the cargo and crew of the Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, which left Odesa on Monday carrying Ukrainian corn, a United Nations statement said.

The Joint Coordinati­on Center team included officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the U.N., the signatorie­s of deals last month to create safe Black Sea shipping corridors to export Ukraine’s desperatel­y needed agricultur­al products as Russia’s war upon its neighbor grinds on.

Ukraine is a major global grain supplier, but the war had blocked most exports. The July 22 deal is aimed at easing food insecurity around the globe, with world food prices soaring because of the war, supply-chain problems and COVID-19. Mistrust between Kyiv and Moscow has kept a cloud over the deal, which lasts for 120 days but can be renewed.

Although U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called the Razoni’s journey a “significan­t step,” no other ships have left Ukraine in the last 48 hours, and officials on all sides have given no explanatio­n for that delay.

A U.N. statement said three Ukrainian ports are due to resume exports of millions of tons of wheat, corn and other crops. It said inspectors “gained valuable informatio­n” from the Razoni’s crew about its voyage through the Black Sea maritime humanitari­an corridor.

The Joint Coordinati­on Center is “fine-tuning procedures,” it said.

Pictures tweeted by the Turkish Ministry of National Defense showed an inspector reaching into the Razoni’s open hold and touching some of its cargo: 26,527 tons of corn for chicken feed. The Razoni’s horn rang out as the inspectors left the ship, and it then headed off to Lebanon.

The checks seek to make sure that outbound cargo ships carry only grain, fertilizer or related food and not any other commoditie­s, and that inbound ships are not carrying weapons.

An estimated 20 million tons of grain — most of it said to be destined for livestock — has been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month-old war. The U.N.-brokered agreement provides for the establishm­ent of safe corridors through the mined waters outside Ukraine’s ports.

A Black Sea voyage entails significan­t risks because of the war. Two civilian ships hit explosive devices there last week near the Danube River’s Bystre estuary, according to Bridget Diakun, a data reporter at Lloyd’s List, a global shipping news publicatio­n.

It appears that the first priority for authoritie­s is bringing out vessels that have been stuck for months at the three Ukrainian ports covered by the deal, analysts say. Sixteen ships loaded with grain have been stuck at the ports of Odesa and Chernomors­k since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24, according to Lloyd’s List data.

Even slower than that is an effort to bring ships into Ukraine’s ports to extract the millions of tons of grain.

Insurance brokers are being “cautious, slow, so far,” said David Osler, insurance editor at Lloyd’s List. “At this stage, everyone’s hesitant.”

Meanwhile, Russian forces kept up their bombardmen­t of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, shelling it twice — around 9 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday, Mykolaiv regional Gov. Vitaliy Kim reported.

The shelling damaged a pier, an industrial enterprise, residentia­l buildings, a garage cooperativ­e, a supermarke­t and a pharmacy, Kim said.

Mykolaiv is a southern port city on the Black Sea. The Russians said in April that they wanted control over not just eastern but southern Ukraine, cutting off the country from its Black Sea coast and creating a possible land corridor to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistr­ia.

The mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Senkevitch, told the Associated Press that 131 civilians, including a child, have died so far in the city from Russian rocket and artillery shelling and another 590 were seriously injured, including seven children.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian shelling killed at least four civilians in Donetsk province in 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidenti­al office said Wednesday. Amid the relentless onslaught there by Moscow’s forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued an order to all those remaining in the province to evacuate as soon as possible.

Officials said that because of Russian attacks, people in areas still held by the government are unlikely to have heat, electricit­y or running water this winter.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has also disrupted energy supplies in Western Europe, with Moscow drasticall­y cutting how much it sends amid fears that it could stop sending any at all. All across Europe, nations are rushing to cut energy use this summer so they can fill up gas storage tanks for the cold winter ahead.

 ?? Khalil Hamra Associated Press ?? THE CARGO ship Razoni is anchored in the Bosporus in Istanbul, Turkey, awaiting inspection. It is carrying Ukrainian corn.
Khalil Hamra Associated Press THE CARGO ship Razoni is anchored in the Bosporus in Istanbul, Turkey, awaiting inspection. It is carrying Ukrainian corn.

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