Shipment courier

Voyage of Ukraine expedition provides test of grain deal | national news

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The first cargo ship to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor more than five months ago was off Bulgaria on Tuesday as it headed for Istanbul, putting the test an agreement signed last month between Moscow and Kyiv that 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 which slowed its progress, according to Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak, coordinator of the joint center created to oversee grain shipments.

Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials are 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 fertilizers, safe corridors through mined waters outside Ukrainian ports have been established.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, the Razoni was about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Istanbul, according to Marine Traffic’s ship tracker.

Altunbulak said “preparations and planning” are continuing for other vessels expected 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, were waiting their turn, and others would follow, according to the Ukrainian authorities. But there was no immediate word on when a second ship might set sail.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Russia on Friday for talks with President Vladimir Putin will provide a “good opportunity to consider the effectiveness of the mechanism” for resuming peace. grain exports.

The more than 26,000 tonnes 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,” its latest food security update said, blaming war in Ukraine, supply chain problems. supply 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 DC.

Only 6 million tonnes 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 told The Associated Press.

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 development of maritime transport 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 bombardments have targeted towns and villages, notably Bakhmut which has suffered the brunt of the recent bombardments.

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. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a tweet late Monday that the package included 75,000 artillery rounds and more ammunition for US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, which gave Ukrainian forces an edge on the battlefield.

In other developments:

– American basketball star Brittney Griner was back in court on Tuesday for her cannabis possession trial. Prosecutors called a state narcotics expert who analyzed the cannabis found in Griner’s luggage. His defense sent a specialist who challenged the analysis, accusing it of being flawed and not in accordance with official rules. If convicted, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star and two-time Olympic gold medalist could face up to 10 years in prison. The trial has been adjourned until Thursday, when closing statements are expected.

– Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said a train carrying evacuees from the Donetsk region arrived in Kropyvnytskyi in central Ukraine on Tuesday, kicking off what Ukrainian authorities are describing such as the launch of the mandatory evacuation effort. Vereshchuk said authorities planned to evacuate 200,000 to 220,000 people from the Donetsk region before the fall.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.