The first ship carrying grain from Ukraine left an Odessa port on Monday after months of the Russian blockade helped fuel a deepening global food crisis.
The breakthrough follows a United Nations-backed deal between Kyiv and Moscow last month, while intense fighting continues in the east and south. The departure of the first shipment will raise hopes that the impact of the war – now five months old – could be alleviated for millions of people suffering hunger and poverty around the world, although doubts about Russia’s commitment to a deal will linger.
A ship with 26,000 tons of corn sets sail from the port in the south of the country. according to a UN-led monitoring center, begins its journey through heavily mined waters beyond the Black Sea and towards Tripoli in Lebanon.
Ahead of his trip, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and ambassadors from the Group of Seven Nations last week visited the port, where they observed ships being loaded with grain.
“We are ready to export Ukrainian grain. We are waiting for signals from our partners about the start of the transport,” he said in a post on his Telegram channel alongside pictures of the ship.
“It is important for us to remain the guarantor of global food security,” he added. While someone takes the lives of other countries while blockading the Black Sea, we let them survive.”
One of the world’s largest grain exporters, Ukraine is known as the “breadbasket of Europe” and supplies an average of 45 million tons of wheat annually worldwide, according to the UN
But the Russian invasion blocked supplies, sending food prices soaring, and the UN warned shortages could push some countries to the brink of famine. Western leaders have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using food as a weapon.
Hopes were raised last month when both sides reached an agreement in the Turkish capital of Istanbul to end the blockade and allow grain to be shipped. The deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, allowed commercial food export shipments to resume from three key Ukrainian Black Sea ports: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
But less than 24 hours after the deal was signed, Russian missiles hit the port of Odessa on Saturday. Zelenskyy has criticized the attack, saying it proves that Russia cannot be trusted to honor its international agreements.
But last Wednesday, the UN inaugurated a joint coordination center to oversee the implementation of the agreement. The center, based in Istanbul, is led by representatives from Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.
“I am confident that their swift collective action will quickly and directly lead to much-needed assistance for those most food insecure around the world,” said Martin Griffiths, United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, at the center’s opening.
The center will monitor the movement of merchant vessels carrying grain and related foods from the Black Sea to ensure both sides honor the agreement.
Boats carrying commercial food exports are escorted out of the Black Sea by Ukrainian pilot ships to avoid sea mines, according to the UN
The center will also coordinate the inspection of grain loading at the three ports, as well as ships calling at the ports along the agreed shipping route.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/1st-grain-shipment-leaves-ukraine-odesa-port-russian-blockade-rcna40581 After months of a Russian blockade, the first grain ship leaves the port of Odessa in Ukraine