Ukraine grain ship leaves Odessa as “relief for the world”

A grain-carrying ship 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 five months ago to allow shipping through the Black Sea. blocked.

Ukraine’s foreign minister called it a “day of relief for the world”, especially for countries suffering from food shortages and hunger due to disrupted shipments.

The sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic success in a conflict that is grinding to a halt with no resolution in sight.

“The first grain ship has left the port since the Russian invasion,” said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. “Today Ukraine, along with its allies, takes another step to stop world hunger.”

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Rajoni will head to the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, after passing through the Bosphorus Strait with its cargo of 26,527 tonnes of grain.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has triggered a worldwide food and energy crisis and the United Nations has warned of the risk of several famines this year.

Russia and Ukraine account for about a third of global wheat exports. But Western sanctions on Russia and military action on Ukraine’s eastern seaboard prevented grain ships from safely leaving the ports.

The deal is intended to allow safe passage for grain shipments in and out of Odessa, Kornomorsk and Pivdenny.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said on Twitter: “A day of relief for the world, especially our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as the first Ukrainian grain leaves Odessa after months of Russian blockade.”

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Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports, and Ukraine mining for its ports. The Kremlin called Rajoni’s departure “very positive” news.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the vessel will anchor in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and will be inspected by a joint team of Russian, Ukrainian, United Nations and Turkish representatives.

“This will continue until a problem arises,” Akar said.

Before Ryzon’s departure, Ukrainian presidential officials said that 17 ships docked in Black Sea ports with about 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain. More ships will follow, Kubrakov said.

Abdulla Jandi, a junior engineer on the ship, said all crew were happy to move on after a long stay in Odessa. Gendy, who is Syrian, said he had not seen his family for over a year.

“It is an indescribable feeling to return to our country after suffering the threats we were facing due to siege and shelling,” he said. “It’s terrifying to know that something could happen to us at any moment because of airstrikes.”

About the journey ahead, he said: “I am afraid of the fact that there are naval mines. We need about two to three hours to get out of the territorial waters. We hope nothing will happen and that we will not make any mistake.

The US embassy in Kyiv welcomed the resumption of shipping, saying: “The world will be looking forward to the continued implementation of this agreement to feed people around the world with millions of tons of stranded Ukrainian grain.”

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he expected this to be the first of several such shipments.

Chicago wheat and corn prices fell on Monday amid hopes of a massive resumption of Ukraine’s grain exports.

bombing in the south and east

Despite success in grain shipments, the war of casualties continued elsewhere.

Russian shelling in the Donetsk region killed three civilians – two in Bakhmut and one in nearby Soledar – in the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said.

An industrial city and transportation hub, Bakhmut has been under Russian bombardment for the past week as Kremlin forces try to capture Donetsk.

It is connected to the cities of Lisichansk and Svyarodonetsk in the Luhansk region, which is occupied by almost all of Russia. Luhansk Governor Serhi Gaidai said the road was crucial for delivering weapons to Ukrainians fighting in Svyarodonetsk and evacuating people from the area.

Russian attacks on Monday also affected Ukraine’s second-largest city and Kharkiv near the border with Russia, regional governor Ole Sinegubov said. He said two civilians were injured.

After failing to capture the capital Kyiv early at the start of the war, Russia has diverted its forces to the east and south of Ukraine and aimed to capture the Donbass region made up of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russian missiles on Sunday targeted Mykolaiv, a port at the mouth of the Bug River off the Black Sea, mostly bordering the Russian-occupied Kherson region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was moving some forces from the Donbass to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.

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Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Kyiv says Moscow wants to do the same with the Donbass and annex it to Crimea in the south. Russian-backed separatists controlled parts of the region before the invasion.

Also on Monday, Ukraine’s defense minister said that Kyiv has received four more US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the United States. A third multiple rocket launcher system – the Mars II MLRS – also arrived from Germany.

Ukraine has urged the West to supply more long-range artillery as it tries to turn the tide in the conflict.

Moscow has accused the West of pulling out the conflict by supplying more weapons to Ukraine, and said the long-range arms supply justifies Russia’s efforts to expand control over more Ukrainian territory for its own protection. Is.

Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and the West have rejected it as a baseless excuse for war.