Turkey’s Defense Ministry said it expects the first shipment of Ukrainian grain since the launch of the Russian invasion will arrive off the Turkish coast on Wednesday morning.
The freighter flying the flag of Sierra Leone Razoni is en route from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to Lebanon with more than 26,000 tonnes of corn on board.
It will first stop in Istanbul where personnel from a special joint coordination center will inspect the ship to ensure that it is not carrying weapons or other non-food items under an agreement reached late July to resume Ukrainian grain exports amid a global food crisis.
The center includes officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, the four parties involved in negotiating the deal.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that the Razoni was “laden with two commodities in short supply: corn and hope”. A hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the good functioning of Ukrainian ports to feed their families.
He added: “What we witnessed today in Odessa is an important starting point. It is to be the first of many commercial vessels bringing relief and stability to global food markets.
António Guterres said that “ensuring that cereals, fertilizers and other food products are available at reasonable prices for developing countries is a humanitarian imperative. People on the brink of starvation need these agreements to function, to survive.
As part of the renewed shipments, António Guterres said the UN’s World Food Program plans to buy 30,000 metric tons of Ukrainian wheat soon and ship it out of the country on a UN-chartered vessel.
The maritime deal provides for the safe passage of cargo ships traveling from southern Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea waters that Russia has controlled since its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday evening in his daily video address that the first delivery is “the first positive signal that there is a chance to stop the development of a global food crisis”.
However, he warned that Russia needed to be watched to ensure it was sticking to the deal.
“We cannot have the illusion that Russia will simply refrain from trying to disrupt Ukrainian exports,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that the departure of the first ship was “very positive” and would help test the “mechanisms agreed during the talks in Istanbul”.
Also on Monday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv had received more precision rocket systems from the United States. Ukraine has credited American-made HIMARS rocket systems with helping to slow Russia’s advance in the east of the country.
Reznikov called the military aid “another investment in NATO’s eastern flank security and support for democracy” in Europe. He tweeted his thanks to US President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the American people.
Some information for this report comes from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.