ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) – The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain set off from the port of Odessa on Monday under a U.N.-Turkey agreement that is expected to release large stocks of Ukrainian crops to foreign markets and facilitate food cultivation. crisis.
A Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship has left Odessa carrying more than 26,000 tons of corn bound for Lebanon.
“The first grain ship since the Russian aggression has left the port,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov said on Twitter, posting a video of the tall ship slowly heading out to sea.
Kobrakov, who posted separately on Facebook, said that Ukraine is the fourth largest exporter of corn in the world, “so the possibility of exporting it through the ports is a tremendous success in ensuring global food security.”
“Today, Ukraine, together with its partners, is taking another step to prevent world hunger,” he added.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the ship’s departure as “very positive,” saying it would help test “the efficiency of the mechanisms agreed upon during the talks in Istanbul.”
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the Razoni ship is expected to dock on Tuesday afternoon in Istanbul at the entrance to the Bosphorus, where joint teams of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials will sit to inspect it.
In an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Akar warned that the global food crisis threatens to unleash a “dangerous wave of migration from Africa to Europe and into Turkey.”
The corn will then head to Lebanon, the Middle Eastern country in the grip of what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst financial crises in more than 150 years. An explosion in 2020 at its main port in Beirut devastated its capital and destroyed granaries there, part of which collapsed after a fire that lasted for weeks on Sunday.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said that other ships will leave the ports of Ukraine Through the safe lanes in line with deals signed in Istanbul on July 22, he did not provide further details.
Russia and Ukraine have signed separate agreements with Turkey and the United Nations paving the way for Ukraine – one of the most important breadbaskets in the world To export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural commodities stuck in the Black Sea ports due to the Russian invasion.
The deals also allow Russia to export grain and fertilizer.
Turkey’s defense minister has hailed a joint coordination center staffed by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations officials as a place where conflicting parties can communicate with each other.
The problems they have are obvious, there is war. “It’s the only place where the two sides can meet,” Akar said. “Despite the ups and downs, there is a good environment for dialogue.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure said another 16 ships, all of which had been blocked since the start of Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine on February 24, were waiting their turn at Odessa ports.
Kobrakov said the shipments would also help Ukraine’s war-torn economy.
“The opening of the ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings for the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for the next year,” Kubrakov said.
The United Nations welcomed the development, saying in a statement that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hopes the shipments will bring “the much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts.”
The resumption of grain shipments came as fighting intensified elsewhere in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s presidential office said that at least three civilians were killed and 16 wounded in Russian shelling in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko repeated a call to all residents to evacuate. He particularly stressed the need to evacuate the approximately 52,000 children still remaining in the area.
In Kharkiv, two people were wounded by Russian shelling in the morning. One was injured while waiting for the bus, and another was injured when a Russian shell exploded near an apartment building.
The southern city of Mykolaiv was also repeatedly bombed, causing fires near a medical facility, destroying a shipment of humanitarian aid containing medicine and food.
Shortly after the deal was signed on July 22, a Russian missile targeted the city of Odessa. Analysts warned that continued fighting could threaten the grain deal.
“The danger remains: the Odessa region has faced constant bombardment, and only regular supplies can prove the feasibility of the signed agreements,” said Volodymyr Sedenko, an expert at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Research Center.
“The departure of the first ship does not solve the food crisis, it is just a first step that could also be the last if Russia decides to continue attacks in the south.”
John Gambrel contributed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.