The Washington Post

In Ukraine, first grain ship leaves under deal

- BY DALTON BENNETT AND KAREEM FAHIM

ODESSA, UKRAINE — The first ship carrying grain departed a Ukrainian port early Monday under a United Nations-brokered deal to ease a global food crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The cargo vessel, loaded with more than 26,000 metric tons of corn, left Odessa amid fears that the deal, signed in Istanbul in late July, would fall apart after a Russian missile strike on the port a day after the signing.

The wail of a Ukrainian tug boat’s horn marked the departure of the Razoni, a Sierra Leone-flagged bulk carrier that began the journey at 9:30 a.m. local time. The ship was destined for

Tripoli, Lebanon, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry. It had been stranded in the Odessa port since Feb. 18, according to marine tracking data.

Ukraine’s minister of infrastruc­ture, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said in a message on Twitter that the vessel was the first to depart the port of Odessa since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. A Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports halted grain exports, contributi­ng to global food shortages.

“Thanks to the support of all our partner countries & @UN we were able to full implement the Agreement signed in Istanbul,” Kubrakov tweeted Monday morning.

Sixteen additional vessels are waiting to depart, according to the minister, who noted that the expected resumption of grain shipments would provide at least $1 billion in much-needed foreign currency reserves for cashstrapp­ed Ukraine.

After months of intense negotiatio­ns, European, U.N. and Ukrainian officials welcomed the departure of the vessel.

In a statement released Monday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the ship’s departure is “an important first step” and expressed her gratitude to the “UN and Turkey for helping to secure this agreement.”

Russia and Ukraine were among the world’s top producers and exporters of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer­s before Moscow’s invasion. Last year, Ukraine accounted for 10 percent of global wheat exports, according to the United Nations.

With more than 20 million tons of grain from last year’s harvest stuck in storage, the resumption of shipments by sea has been a top priority for the Ukrainian government. But Russia’s blockade has forced grain sellers to use alternativ­es, including river ports or costly overland routes, that have delayed deliveries.

The July 22 agreement signed in Turkey guarantees the safe passage of commercial ships from Odessa and two other Ukrainian ports. Set to remain in force for 120 days, it relies on monitoring of designated maritime corridors by delegation­s from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations in Istanbul.

Turkey and the United Nations brokered negotiatio­ns for months amid disputes over the agreement’s terms, including security guarantees insisted upon by Ukraine. Russia and some Western countries had pushed for demining Ukraine’s ports, which Kyiv feared would leave it vulnerable to attack, U.N. officials said. In the end, avoiding the mines has been left to Ukrainian ship pilots guiding the merchant vessels.

A Russian missile strike on Odessa’s port less than 24 hours after the deal was concluded threatened to scuttle it.

“Ensuring that existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitari­an imperative,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement welcoming the Razoni’s departure.

The Istanbul coordinati­on center said in a statement that it had agreed to “specific coordinate­s and restrictio­ns” along the maritime corridor and “requested all its participan­ts to inform their respective military” and other authoritie­s to ensure the Razoni’s safe passage. By Monday evening, marine tracking data showed the vessel making its way along the corridor, southwest of Odessa and hugging Ukraine’s coast.

It was expected to arrive in Turkish territoria­l waters Tuesday. After inspection in Turkey, it would continue on to Lebanon, the coordinati­on center said.

 ?? FOR the Washington Post ?? The bulk carrier Razoni, loaded with more than 26,000 metric tons of corn, leaves the port of Odessa in Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations. A Russian naval blockade of Black Sea ports has contribute­d to global food shortages.
FOR the Washington Post The bulk carrier Razoni, loaded with more than 26,000 metric tons of corn, leaves the port of Odessa in Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations. A Russian naval blockade of Black Sea ports has contribute­d to global food shortages.

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