The first cargo ship to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor more than five months ago was off the coast of Bulgaria on Tuesday as it headed for Istanbul, testing a deal signed last month between Moscow and Kyiv which aims to help alleviate a global food crisis.
The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Monday, is expected to reach Istanbul early on Wednesday after encountering bad weather that slowed its progress, according to Turkish Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak, the center’s coordinator. common. created to oversee grain shipments.
Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations officials are due to inspect the ship after it anchors in Istanbul. The inspections are part of a UN-brokered deal with Turkey to move Ukrainian grain stocks to foreign markets and ease the growing global food crisis.
As part of the July 22 agreement on shipments, which include Russian grain and fertilizer exports, safe corridors through mined waters outside Ukrainian ports have been established.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, the Razoni was about 200 km north of Istanbul, according to Marine Traffic’s ship tracker.
Altunbulak said “preparations and planning” were continuing for more ships to leave Ukrainian ports, but he did not provide details.
The situation in the Black Sea remains tense. Some mines reportedly broke loose and floated freely, and as a sign of distrust between the warring parties, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged international partners to closely monitor Moscow’s compliance with the deal.
The safe corridors are supposed to allow more ships to leave Ukrainian ports. In Odessa, 16 other ships, all blocked since the Russian invasion on February 24, are waiting their turn, according to the Ukrainian authorities. There was no immediate word on when a second ship might set sail.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s planned visit to Moscow on Friday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin would provide a “good opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the mechanism” for the resumption of grain exports.
The more than 26,000 tons of maize on board the Razoni, bound for Lebanon, will make little dent in what the World Bank last week called “growing food insecurity” across the world.
“Record food prices have sparked a global crisis that will push millions more into extreme poverty,” said the World Bank’s latest food security update, blaming war in Ukraine, problems of global supply chain and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the roughly 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine since the start of the war is meant to feed livestock, according to David Laborde, an agriculture and trade exporter at the International Policy Research Institute. food in Washington.
Only 6 million tons of these trapped grains are wheat, and only half is for human consumption, Laborde said. He said Monday’s departure of a large shipment of maize from Ukraine to Lebanon was actually chicken feed.
“A few ships leaving Ukraine is not going to be a game changer,” he said.
Get breaking news, investigations, analysis and more signature journalism from the Los Angeles Times delivered to your inbox.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
But the Razoni’s trip has at least raised hopes that the world food situation might improve. Ukraine and Russia are the world’s main suppliers of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil. The fertile Black Sea region has long been known as the breadbasket of Europe, and Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat to developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The evolution of navigation occurred against the backdrop of continuous fighting, especially in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Moscow’s forces stuck to their usual pattern of shelling areas they do not hold, with Ukrainian officials reporting that Russian shelling killed at least three civilians in eastern areas overnight.
In the Donetsk region, at the forefront of the Russian offensive, the shelling has targeted towns and villages, including Bakhmut, which has suffered the full brunt of recent shelling.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenlo said “the Russians are leveling Bakhmut with a massive barrage from the ground and from the air.”
“The shelling of Bakhmut continues around the clock, leaving little chance for civilians to survive,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
The United States said it was sending an additional $550 million in military aid to Kyiv. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a tweet late Monday that the package included 75,000 artillery rounds and more ammunition for the US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which gave Ukrainian forces an edge on the battlefield.