First ship carrying Ukrainian grain leaves port under July deal

The first cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain left a Black Sea port in southern Ukraine on Monday under a deal enabling the safe passage of food-carrying vessels.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni departed the port city of Odesa on Monday carrying 26,000 metric tons of corn bound for Lebanon, according to authorities. A deal brokered by the United Nations and signed by Ukrainian and Russian officials in Turkey on July 22 is expected to release a large volume of Ukrainian agricultural products to foreign markets and ease a growing food security crisis. The Turkish Ministry of Defense said on Monday that other ships will also be dispatched from Ukrainian Black Sea ports in line with the deal.

“The first [Ukrainian] grain ship since #RussianAggression has left port,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter on Monday, thanking Turkey and the U.N. for helping implement the agreement.

Cargo ships have been unable to leave ports in Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion due to a naval blockade of the Black Sea. An estimated 22 million tons of grain has been stuck at the ports since the start of the war.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said on Monday that “ensuring that existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative.”

“The Secretary-General hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the Initiative signed, and that this will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts,” Dujarric said in a statement, adding that the U.N. World Food Programme is planning to purchase, load, and ship at least 30,000 metric tons of wheat out of Ukraine on a U.N.-chartered ship.

The Razoni is expected to reach Istanbul on Tuesday, where it will be inspected, before being allowed to proceed, the Associated Press reported.

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