First grain ship leaves Odessa since Russian invasion

Grain that has been blockaded in the port of Odessa has finally departed on Monday, heading toward Lebanon. This is as per a safe passage agreement between Ukraine and Turkey. The agreement will remain in effect for 120 days, and shipping routes will be monitored by Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN. The deal will also allow Russia the ability to export its grain and fertilizer.

Turkey and the United Nations brokered the deal last month for fertilizer and grain exports amid the ongoing invasion and war that has broken out in Ukraine, as Ukraine attempts to defend itself and its territory from Russian aggressors. Within a day of the agreement being brokered, Russia launched a missile strike on Odessa’s port, which threatened the deal.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain producers, hasn’t been able to ship grain out of their ports since neighboring Russia invaded the former Soviet nation in late February. Disrupted grain shipments have been a disaster for many parts of the world that faced hunger and deprivation as a result.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declared this “a day of relief for the world.”

“Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports,” Reuters reported.

However, more than 20 million tons of grain have been held back from global markets due to the Russian blockades. “Russia’s blockade has forced grain sellers to use alternatives, including river ports or costly overland routes, that have delayed deliveries,” the Washington Post reports.

The US Embassy in Ukraine weighed in, saying “The world will be watching for continued implementation of this agreement to feed people around the world with millions of tons of trapped Ukrainian grain.”

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, thanked the UN and Turkey for their diplomatic efforts.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Friday “that Ukraine and Russia would sign separate agreements,” NPR reports. Ukraine “does not sign any documents with Russia,” Podolyak said.

17 ships are currently holding 600,000 tons of cargo, primarily grain, and are docked in Black Sea ports. As the leave the ports, the sailors must be wary of mines that were deployed to prevent ship movements.

In addition to the port of Odessa, the ports of Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi are also covered by the safe-passage agreement. The first ship that left port was the Razoni, a carrier that sails under the flag of Sierra Leon.

The UN said this grain shipment, and the opening up of key ports, is a “humanitarian imperative.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres termed the deal the “Black Sea Initiative.”

It was in April that Guterres broached the problem of the blockaded grain and fertilizer shipments, from both Ukraine and Russia. He brought these concerns up both to Zelensky and to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Guterres said in June, as he proposed the plan, that “the war was endangering food supplies for many developing nations and could worsen hunger for up to 181 million people,” NPR reports.

The Razoni holds “more than 26,000 metric tons of corn and was expected to arrive in Turkish territorial waters on Tuesday after traveling across the Black Sea,” the Washington Post reports. From there it will continue on to Lebanon.

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