For the first time since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, a ship carrying grain has left the port of Odessa. The cargo ship "Razoni", loaded with corn, left for Lebanon on Monday morning, reported CNN Türk with reference to the Turkish Ministry of Defense. Other ships are to follow. The cargo ship "Razoni" sails under the flag of the West African state of Sierra Leone.
This should make millions of tons of grain available again for the world market. Before the Russian war of aggression, Ukraine was one of the world's most important grain exporters. For them, billions in revenue from the sale of wheat and corn, among other commodities, is at stake. If the grain agreement with Russia holds, Ukraine wants to start negotiations and try to open also the port of Mykolaiv for export of grain by ship.
Shortly before, the Turkish ministry had stated that the grain delivery was taking place within the framework of the agreement concluded on July 22, with further exports to follow.
With the mediation of the United Nations, the warring parties Ukraine and Russia had each separately signed an agreement with Turkey in Istanbul to allow grain exports from Ukraine from three ports. According to Ukrainian data, more than 20 million tons of grain from last year's harvest are still waiting to be exported. Silos urgently need to be cleared because of the new harvest.
Port operations had been suspended for security reasons after the Russian invasion in late February. Moscow was accused of blocking Ukrainian grain exports. Russia now assured in the agreement to allow ships to sail through a sea corridor and not to attack them or ports involved.
Ukraine called the launch of the cargo ship a great success. "Today, Ukraine, together with partners, takes another step toward preventing hunger in the world," Infrastructure Minister Olexander Kubrakov shared on Facebook on Monday. Russian leaders also welcomed the grain shipment. This is "very positive news," the presidential office in Moscow explained.
According to the infrastructure minister, the reopening of three ports would allow Ukraine's economy to earn at least one billion U.S. dollars (about 980 million euros) and enable planning in the agricultural sector. Sixteen other ships were already waiting to depart from the Black Sea ports, Kubrakov said.
Exports are monitored by a control center in Istanbul staffed by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey. The Bosphorus strait, which runs through Istanbul, is the only sea route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Turkey has sovereignty over the Bosphorus. Ships are to be inspected when entering and leaving the Black Sea. Thus, at Russia's request, it will be ensured that the ships do not have weapons or the like on board. Russia fears that Ukraine is procuring weapons from the proceeds of grain sales.
The agreement covers the Ukrainian ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny (Pivdenny). Just one day after the agreement, Russia had shelled the port of Odessa, raising concerns in the meantime that the grain deal could fall through.
Food from Ukraine is urgently needed on the world market - especially in Asia and Africa. The United Nations recently warned of the worst famine in decades. The UN and Turkey had spoken of a sign of hope in times of war when signing the agreement with Russia and Ukraine.
Photo by Jens Rademacher