In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry Press Office, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni cargo ship, with 26,000 tonnes of the Ukrainian corn aboard, leaves the port in Odesa region, Ukraine, Aug 1, 2022. (UKRAINIAN INFRASTRUCTURE MINISTRY PRESS OFFICE VIA AP)
KYIV – A ship carrying grain left Ukraine's Odesa port for foreign markets on Monday under a safe passage agreement, a Ukrainian minister said, the first departure since Russia’s special military operation blocked shipping through the Black Sea five months ago.
The sailing was made possible after Türkiye and the United Nations brokered a grain-and-fertilizer export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month.
"The first grain ship since #RussianAggression has left port. Thanks to the support of all our partner countries & @UN we were able to full implement the Agreement signed in Istanbul," Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter.
The resumption of Ukraine's grain exports would help to prevent a global food crisis, contribute at least $1 billion to the Ukrainian economy and pave the way for the country's farmers to prepare for next year's sowing campaign, Kubrakov said.
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The Turkish defense ministry said earlier that the Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, which is loaded with corn, will head to Lebanon. More ships will follow, it said.
Ukrainian presidential officials have said 17 ships were docked in Ukraine's Black Sea ports with almost 600,000 tonnes of cargo
The cargo ship will first reach Istanbul in Türkiye for inspection on Tuesday. It will be inspected by a joint monitoring center according to the agreement that Russia and Ukraine made with Türkiye and the UN, the Turkish ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The Russian operation in Ukraine which began on Feb 24 has led to a worldwide food and energy crisis, with the United Nations warning of the risk multiple famines this year.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat exports. But Western sanctions on Russia and fighting along Ukraine's eastern seaboard have prevented grain ships safely leaving ports.
The deal aims to allow safe passage for grain shipments in and out of Chornomorsk, Odesa and the port of Pivdennyi.
Ukrainian presidential officials have said 17 ships were docked in Ukraine's Black Sea ports with almost 600,000 tonnes of cargo. Of them, 16 vessels held Ukrainian grain with a total tonnage of about 580,000 tonnes.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.
READ MORE: Ukraine grain deal needs to overcome sanctions, trust issues
In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on July 2, 2022, a Russian Su-25 ground attack jet fires rockets during a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE VIA AP, FILE)
Bombardment of ports
Russian missiles on Sunday pounded Mykolaiv, a port city on the River Bug estuary off the Black Sea that borders the mostly Russian-occupied Kherson region.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said more than 12 missile strikes – probably the most powerful on the city in five months of war – hit homes and schools, with two people confirmed killed and three wounded.
Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of agriculture company Nibulon, and his wife were killed in their home, Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.
President Volodymyr Zelensky described Vadatursky's death as "a great loss for all of Ukraine".
Zelensky said the businessman – one of Ukraine's richest with Forbes estimating his 2021 net worth at $430 million – had been building a modern grain market with a network of transshipment terminals and elevators.
ALSO READ: Russia denies attacks on Ukrainian port, says Turkish minister
The Ukrainian leader said his country may harvest only half its usual amount this year due to disruption to farming from the war. Farmers have reported trying to harvest in between Russian shelling of their fields and nearby towns and villages.
Russia has been transferring some forces from the eastern Donbas region to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhizhya regions, said Zelensky.