ISTANBUL (AP) – The first grain ship to leave Ukraine and cross the Black Sea under a war deal was inspected in Istanbul on Wednesday and proceeded to Lebanon. Ukraine said 17 other ships were “loaded and awaiting permission to depart” but it did not yet know when they could depart.
A joint civilian inspection team spent three hours checking the cargo and crew of the Sierra Leonean-flagged ship Razoni, which left Odessa carrying Ukrainian corn on Monday, a UN statement said.
The Joint Coordination Center team included officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, who last month signed agreements to create safe Black Sea shipping corridors to export Ukraine’s much-needed agricultural products, while Russia’s War against its neighbors continues.
Ukraine is a major global grain supplier, but the war had blocked most exports, so the July 22 deal aimed to improve food security around the world. Global food prices have skyrocketed amid a crisis attributed to war, supply chain issues and COVID-19. Distrust between Kyiv and Moscow has tarnished the deal, which lasts 120 days but can be extended.
Although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Razoni’s voyage a “significant step,” no other ship has left Ukraine in the past 48 hours, and officials on all sides have offered no explanation for the delay.
A UN statement said three Ukrainian ports are set to resume exports of millions of tons of wheat, corn and other crops. The inspectors were said to have received “valuable information” from the Razoni’s crew about their voyage through the Black Sea Humanitarian Corridor.
The joint coordination center is a “fine-tuning process,” it said.
Images tweeted by Turkey’s Defense Ministry showed an inspector reaching into the Razoni’s open hold and touching part of her cargo: 26,527 tons of corn for chicken feed. The Razoni’s horn sounded as the inspectors abandoned the ship, and it made its way to Lebanon.
The controls are designed to ensure that outbound cargo ships are carrying only grain, fertilizer or related foods and no other goods, and that inbound ships have no weapons on board.
Ukrainian farmers hope to start shipping grain around the world soon. (Source: CNN)
An estimated 20 million tons of grain – most of it said to be for livestock – has been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the six-month-old war. The UN-brokered agreement provided for the establishment of safe corridors through the mined waters outside of Ukrainian ports.
Because of the war, a trip to the Black Sea involves considerable risks. According to Bridget Diakun, a data reporter at Lloyd’s List, a global shipping news newspaper, two civilian ships struck explosive devices near the Bystre estuary of the Danube there last week.
It seems the first priority for authorities is to get out ships that have been stuck for months in the three Ukrainian ports affected by the deal, analysts say. According to Lloyd’s List, 16 ships loaded with grain have been stranded in the ports of Odessa and Chernomorsk since the Russian invasion.
Even slower is trying to get ships into Ukrainian ports to haul the millions of tons of grain.
Insurance brokers “have been cautious and slow so far,” said David Osler, insurance editor at Lloyd’s List. “At this point, everyone hesitates.”
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their bombardment of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, shelling it twice in the last 24 hours – on Tuesday around 9 p.m. and on Wednesday at 5 a.m., Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim reported.
The shelling damaged a pier, an industrial establishment, residential buildings, a garage cooperative, a supermarket and a pharmacy, Kim said.
Mykolaiv is a southern port city on the Black Sea. The Russians said in April they wanted to control not only eastern but southern Ukraine as well, cutting the country off its Black Sea coast and creating a possible land corridor to Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych told The Associated Press that so far 131 civilians, including a child, have died in the city from Russian rocket and artillery fire and another 590 have been seriously injured, including seven children.
GRAPHICS WARNING: Videos in this story may contain disturbing content.
GRAPHIC WARNING: A Ukrainian soldier sidelined by a serious combat wound is still determined to return to combat. (Credit: CNN/YURIY HUDYMENKO)
In eastern Ukraine, Russian shelling killed at least four civilians in Donetsk province within 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Wednesday. Amid the relentless onslaught of Moscow forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered all who remained in the embattled province to evacuate as soon as possible. Officials said that because of the Russian attacks, people in areas still held by the government are unlikely to have heating, electricity or running water this winter.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has also disrupted power supplies in Western Europe, with Moscow slashing supplies amid fears it might run out altogether. Across Europe, nations are rushing to cut energy use this summer so they can stock up on gas storage for the cold winter ahead.
Robert Badendieck and Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul and Aya Batrawy in Dubai contributed to this report.
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