- The first Ukrainian grain ship bound for Lebanon
- Turkey says more ships will follow
- Russian missiles bombed the port of Mykolaiv
Kyiv (Reuters) – A ship laden with grain left the Ukrainian port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday under a safe passage agreement, Ukrainian and Turkish officials said, the first departure since the Russian invasion that blocked shipping through the Black Sea five months ago. .
Ukraine’s foreign minister called it a “relief day for the world”, especially for countries threatened by food shortages and starvation due to disruption of shipments.
The sail was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month.
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“The first grain ship since the # Russian aggression has left the port,” said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov. “Ukraine today, together with its partners, is taking another step to prevent world hunger.”
The Turkish Defense Minister said earlier that the Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razzoni will head to Lebanon.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 triggered a global food and energy crisis and the United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat exports. But Western sanctions on Russia and fighting along Ukraine’s eastern coast have prevented grain ships from safely leaving ports.
The deal is intended to allow safe passage of grain shipments to and from Odessa, Chornomorsk and the port of Bivdnyi.
“World Relief Day, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as the first Ukrainian pill leaves Odessa after months of the Russian blockade,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports, and Ukraine for mining its ports.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the Razoni will dock in the Bosphorus strait off Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and will be inspected by a joint team of representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey.
“It will continue after that as long as there are no problems,” Akar said.
Ukrainian presidential officials said that 17 ships docked in the Black Sea ports loaded with about 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain.
Kubrakov said more ships would follow. He said the opening of the ports would provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings for the Ukrainian economy and allow the agricultural sector to plan for next year’s sowing season.
The US embassy in Kyiv welcomed the resumption of shipping, saying: “The world will watch the continued implementation of this agreement to feed people around the world with millions of tons of blockaded Ukrainian grain.”
Shells in the south and east
Despite the breakthrough in grain shipments, the war on land is elsewhere.
The region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, said three civilians had been killed in Russian shelling in the Donetsk region – two in Bakhmut and one in nearby Soledar – in the past 24 hours.
Bakhmut, an important industrial city and transportation hub, has been under Russian bombardment over the past week as Kremlin forces attempt to fully occupy Donetsk.
It is connected to the cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region, which is occupied by almost all of Russia. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said the route is important for delivering weapons to Ukrainians fighting in Severodonetsk and evacuating people from that region.
The region’s governor, Oleh Senegubov, said Russian strikes also hit Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest city and located near the border with Russia – on Monday. He said two civilians were wounded.
After failing to quickly capture the capital Kyiv early in the war, Russia shifted its forces to eastern and southern Ukraine and aimed to capture the Donbass region, made up of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia is moving some troops from Donbass to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to do the same with Donbass, linking it to Crimea in the south. Russian-backed separatists were in control of parts of the region before the invasion.
Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and Western countries dismissed this as an unfounded pretext for war.
On Sunday, Russian missiles hit the port city of Mykolaiv, located at the mouth of the Bug River off the Black Sea on the border of the mainly Russian-occupied Kherson region.
More than a dozen rocket attacks – perhaps the most powerful on the city in five months of the war – hit homes and schools, killing two people and wounding three, said Mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Senkevich.
Mykolaiv Governor Vitaly Kim said that Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadatorsky, founder and owner of the agricultural company Nipolon and his wife were killed in their home.
Zelensky said that the businessman – one of the richest people in Ukraine – was building a modern grain market with a network of freight stations and elevators.
“It was these people, these companies, precisely in southern Ukraine, who ensured food security for the world,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech. “It has always been this way. And it will be so again.”
Zelensky said Ukraine could harvest only half the usual amount this year due to the disruption of agriculture from the war. Farmers reported trying to harvest between the Russian bombing of their fields and nearby towns and villages.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Michael Perry and Angus McSwan; Editing by Nick McPhee
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