- First Ukrainian grain ship bound for Lebanon
- Turkey says more ships will follow
- Russian missiles pound the port of Mykolaiv
KYIV, Aug 1 (Reuters) – A ship carrying 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 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 hunger due to interrupted shipments.
The sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that continues unresolved in sight.
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“The first grain ship since #RussianAggression has left the port,” said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. “Today, Ukraine, together with its partners, takes another step towards preventing hunger in the world.”
The Razoni ship, flying the flag of Sierra Leone, will head for Lebanon after transiting through the Bosphorus Strait.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 led to a global food and fuel crisis and the United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year.
Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of world wheat exports. But Western sanctions against Russia and fighting along Ukraine’s east coast had prevented grain ships from leaving ports safely.
The agreement aims to allow safe passage of grain shipments to and from Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter: “A day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as the first grain of Ukraine leaves Odessa after months of Russian blockade”.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, accusing Western sanctions of slowing exports and Ukraine of mining the approaches to its ports. The Kremlin called Razoni’s departure “very positive news”.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the ship would drop anchor off Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and be inspected by a joint team of Russian, Ukrainian, UN and Turkish officials.
“It will then continue as long as no problems arise,” Akar said.
Ukrainian presidential officials said 17 ships are docked in Black Sea ports with nearly 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain. Other ships would follow, Kubrakov said.
A young ship’s engineer, Abdullah Jendi, said the entire crew was happy to leave after their extended stay in Odessa. He had not seen his family for over a year, said Jendi, who is Syrian.
“It’s an indescribable feeling to return to my home country after suffering from the siege and the dangers we faced from the shelling,” he told Reuters. “The great fear of knowing that at any moment something could happen to us because of the airstrikes.”
About the upcoming trip, he said: “I’m afraid that there are sea mines. We need about two to three hours to get out of regional waters. We hope nothing will happen. and that we will make no mistake.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv welcomed the resumption of shipments, saying, “The world will be watching the continued implementation of this agreement to feed people around the world with millions of tons of Ukrainian grain. trapped”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he hoped it would be the first of many such expeditions.
BOMBING IN THE SOUTH AND EAST
Despite the breakthrough in grain shipments, the war of attrition continued elsewhere.
Three civilians have been killed by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region – two in Bakhmut and one in nearby Soledar – in the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
An industrial city and transport hub, Bakhmut has been under Russian bombardment for a week as Kremlin forces attempt to occupy all of Donetsk.
It is connected to the cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in the Lugansk region, which is almost entirely occupied by Russia. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said the road was crucial for delivering weapons to Ukrainians fighting in Sievierodonetsk and evacuating people from that area.
Russian strikes also hit Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city and located near the border with Russia – on Monday, regional governor Oleh Synegubov said. Two civilians were injured, he said.
After failing to quickly capture the capital Kyiv at the start of the war, Russia turned its forces to eastern and southern Ukraine and aims to capture the Donbass region, consisting of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was transferring some forces from Donbass to the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhizhya.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to do the same with Donbass and link it to Crimea to the south. Russian-backed separatists controlled parts of the region before the invasion.
Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.
On Sunday, Russian missiles pounded Mykolaiv, a port city on the Bug River estuary off the Black Sea that borders the mostly Russian-occupied Kherson region.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said more than 12 missile strikes hit homes and schools, killing two and injuring three.
Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of the Nibulon agricultural company, and his wife were killed in their home, Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim said.
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Reporting by George Sargent, Anna Lubowicka, Bushra Shakhshir and Reuters bureaus; Written by Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie
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