Shipment term

First Ukrainian grain shipment passes through Istanbul

The first shipment of grain from Ukraine since the Kremlin was invaded five months ago passed through Istanbul on Wednesday under a historic deal designed to help ease a global food crisis sparked by war.

The journey of the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Lebanon is being closely watched for signs of how the first agreement signed by Moscow and Kyiv since Russia invaded its neighbor pro-Western holds.

A deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations last month lifted the Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea towns and set the conditions for millions of tonnes of wheat and other grains to start flowing out of silos and full ports of Ukraine.

Ukraine exports about half of the sunflower oil used on the world market and is one of the world’s leading grain suppliers.

An almost complete shutdown of its exports has helped drive up global food prices and made imports prohibitively expensive in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The Razoni carried 26,000 tonnes of maize through a specially designated corridor in the mine-ridden waters of the Black Sea before reaching the northern edge of the Bosphorus Strait on Tuesday.

A team of 20 inspectors from both warring sides and the UN and Turkey strapped on orange helmets and boarded the vessel early Wednesday for a mandated inspection that officials say lasted less than 90 minutes.

More ships

The ship’s passage is overseen by an international team that includes Russian and Ukrainian officials in Istanbul.

“This marks the conclusion of a first ‘proof of concept’ operation to execute the agreement between the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations,” the center said after the ship was cleared to spend.

The 186-meter (610-foot) long vessel will head to the Marmara and Aegean seas before reaching the Lebanese coast in the coming days.

Kyiv says at least 16 more grain ships are waiting to depart.

But he also accuses Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain from territories seized by Kremlin forces and then shipping it to allied countries like Syria.

Turkish hopes that the grain deal could help build confidence and lead to ceasefire talks have so far been dashed.

Russia continued to shell cities in southern Ukraine near the Black Sea with missiles and continued its ground assault across the east.

Mykolaiv officials said no one was killed in the bombing of one of the southern city’s supermarkets on Wednesday, which came just days after the region’s grain tycoon and his wife were killed in a a targeted attack on their home.

Moscow said on Wednesday it had destroyed another foreign arms depot in western Ukraine, the region farthest from the fighting.

Counteroffensive

Kyiv has launched mandatory evacuations from the eastern region of Donetsk – which is now bearing the brunt of the Russian offensive – as the government does not expect to be able to provide it with heat during the cold winter months.

Kyiv forces launched a counter-offensive to drive the Russians out of the southern region of Kherson which they seized in the early days of the war near the Kremlin annexed Crimean peninsula.

The Ukrainian presidency said it had “liberated” seven other villages in the southern region while 53 remained under Russian control.

Ukraine has been bolstered by more supplies of Western weapons – especially long-range rockets – ahead of the planned push to retake the city of Kherson.

The United States announced a new tranche of weapons worth $550 million for Ukrainian forces.

These include longer-range ammunition for the increasingly important HIMARS rocket launchers and artillery pieces.

Ukraine uses HIMARS and similar Western systems to destroy Russian weapons depots and break its land lines of communication through the war zone.

Energy Wars

The Russians have been unable to capture a significant village or town since taking full control of the small Luhansk region in the Donbass war zone in early July.

Zelensky told US President Joe Biden in a message that “the word ‘HIMARS’ has become almost synonymous with the word ‘justice’ for our country.”

Russia responded by sharply cutting Europe’s natural gas supply and stepping up its propaganda battle against the West and Kyiv.

The latest Russian cut along the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany has forced Berlin to reassess its plans to wean itself off nuclear power in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that extending the life of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants “may make sense”.

The Russian propaganda campaign included a decision to label the Ukrainian Azov Regiment as a “terrorist” organization.

The Azov fighters were among 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered in May after weeks of fierce resistance at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.

Its members were among 50 Ukrainian servicemen killed last week in an attack on a prison holding prisoners of war in Russian-occupied territory.

Ukraine accuses Moscow of deliberately executing the detainees.