- The first Ukrainian grain ship went to Lebanon
- Turkey says more ships will arrive
- Russian missiles hit Mykolaiv port
KYIV, Aug 1 (Reuters) – A ship carrying grain for Lebanon left Ukraine’s Odesa port on Monday under a safe passage agreement, Ukrainian and Turkish officials said. The Russian invasion blocked shipping through the Black Sea 5 months ago. .
Ukraine’s foreign minister called it a “day of relief for the world,” especially as exports to countries threatened by food shortages and starvation were disrupted.
The cruise was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations signed a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month.
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“The first grain ship left the port after the Russian occupation,” said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. “Today Ukraine, together with its partners, has taken another step to stop world hunger.”
The Turkish Defense Minister said earlier that the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni ship would sail to Lebanon.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 has led to a global food and energy crisis and the United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of world wheat exports. But Western sanctions on Russia and fighting off Ukraine’s eastern seaboard have prevented grain ships from safely leaving ports.
The agreement aims to allow safe passage of grain exports in and out of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivtenny ports.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter: “Relief day for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as the first Ukrainian grain leaves Odessa after Russia’s blockade”.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, accusing Western sanctions of reducing exports and Ukraine mining approaches to its ports.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the Razoni would anchor in the Bosphorus in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and be inspected by a joint delegation of Russian, Ukrainian, United Nations and Turkish representatives.
“This will continue till no problem arises,” said Agar.
Ukrainian presidential officials said 17 ships with nearly 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain, were docked in Black Sea ports.
Gubrakov said more ships would follow. Opening the ports would provide Ukraine’s economy with at least $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings and allow the agricultural sector to plan for next year’s sowing season, he said.
The US embassy in Kyiv welcomed the resumption of shipping: “The world will be watching the continued implementation of this agreement to feed millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to people around the world.”
Bombs in the south and east
Despite the improvement in grain exports, the war was elsewhere.
Russian shelling in the Donetsk region has killed three civilians – two in Pakmut and one in nearby Soledor – in the past 24 hours, regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said.
Bagmut, an important industrial city and transport hub, has been under Russian bombardment for the past week as Kremlin forces seek to overrun all of Donetsk.
It adjoins the cities of Lysizansk and Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, which is almost exclusively occupied by Russia. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Keidai said the road was important for supplying weapons to Ukrainians fighting in Severodonetsk and evacuating people from the area.
On Monday, Russian strikes hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and located near the border with Russia, regional governor Oleh Sinekupov said on Monday. Two civilians were injured, he said.
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv quickly at the start of the war, Russia has turned its forces to the east and south of Ukraine, aiming to capture the Donbass region, which includes the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was moving some forces from the Donbass to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to annex Crimea in the south by doing the same with Donbas. Russian-backed separatists controlled parts of the region before the invasion.
Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to militarize its neighbors. Ukraine and the West have dismissed it as a baseless pretext for war.
On Sunday, Russian missiles fired from the Black Sea at the port city of Mykolayiv, at the mouth of the Pukh River, bordering the mostly Russian-occupied Kherson region.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said more than 12 rocket attacks – possibly the most powerful on the city in the five-month war – hit homes and schools, killing two people and wounding three others.
Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of agricultural company Nibulon, and his wife were killed in their home, Mykolaiv Governor Vitaly Kim said.
Zelensky said the businessman, one of Ukraine’s richest men, is building a modern grain market with a network of transshipment terminals and elevators.
“These people, these institutions, precisely in the south of Ukraine, have guaranteed the world’s food security,” Zelensky said in his night speech. “It’s always been like that. It’ll be like that once again.”
Zelensky said Ukraine may harvest only half of its usual amount this year due to disruptions in farming caused by the war. Farmers have reported trying to harvest their fields and nearby towns and villages amid Russian shelling.
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Report by Reuters Bureau; By Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick MacPhee
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