‘A glimmer of hope’ as Ukrainian grain ship leaves Odessa port

The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea since Russia invaded Ukraine five months ago left the port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday under a safe passage agreement described as a glimmer of hope in a worsening global food crisis.
Navigation is made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month — a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that has become a protracted war of attrition.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship, the Razzoni, will head to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon, after crossing the Turkish Bosphorus Strait that connects the Black Sea, which is dominated by the Russian navy, with the Mediterranean. It transports 26,527 tons of corn.

But there are still hurdles to overcome before millions of tons of Ukrainian grain can leave its Black Sea ports, including clearing sea mines and creating a framework for ships to safely enter the conflict zone and pick up cargo.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 triggered a global food and energy crisis and the United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped Tuesday’s departure would be the first of many such shipments and that the UN would charter a ship to replenish aid supplies.

“People on the verge of starvation need these agreements to work, to survive,” Guterres told reporters in New York.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described it as “a day of relief for the world, and especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”
Ukraine, known as Europe’s breadbasket, hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of the harvest now underway, initially from Odessa, Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk nearby, to help clean up the silos for the new crop.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports and accusing Ukraine of planting underwater mines at the entrances to its ports. The Kremlin described Razouni’s departure as “very positive” news.

Trade from Russia’s Black Sea ports recovered in mid-May after declining in April, although it has eased slightly in recent weeks, according to VesselsValue, a London-based maritime intelligence firm.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the ship would dock off Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and would be inspected by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and the Turks.
“It will continue after that as long as there are no problems,” Akar said.
Before Razouni left, Ukrainian officials said 17 ships had docked in Black Sea ports with about 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain. Countries expressed the hope that more would follow.

“This is a glimmer of hope that the food crisis will worsen,” a German foreign ministry spokesman said in a government briefing.

An agricultural crop is harvested in a wheat field outside the city center, as the Russo-Ukrainian war continues in Zolochev, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine on August 1, 2022. source: GT / Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


The junior engineer on the ship, Abdullah Gendi, said the crew was happy to move in after their extended stay in Odessa, and that he, a Syrian, had not seen his family in over a year.
“It is an indescribable feeling of returning to my homeland after suffering from the siege and the dangers we were facing due to the bombing,” he said.

He said he feared the ship would hit a mine in the hours it takes to leave territorial waters.

The US embassy in Kyiv also welcomed the resumption of shipping and said the world would be watching more. Wheat and corn prices fell in Chicago on hopes that Ukrainian grain exports will resume on a large scale.
Neil Roberts, head of marine and air insurance at the Lloyds Market Association, told Reuters that key arrangements, including shipping procedures, still need to be in place before empty vessels can enter and pick up cargo from Ukraine using the new lane.

“There is some way to go,” Roberts said.

Russia and Ukraine war

A Ukrainian man is seen examining his destroyed house, which was burnt to ashes in the fire caused by the bombing, as the Russo-Ukrainian war continues in Opetny, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on August 1, 2022. source: GT / Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Bombing in the south and east

As the fighting continued, the region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, said three civilians had been killed in Russian shelling in the eastern Donetsk region – two in Bakhmut and one in nearby Solidar – in the past 24 hours.
The industrial city of Bakhmut and a transportation hub has come under Russian bombardment over the past week as Kremlin forces attempted to fully occupy Donetsk after capturing most of the neighboring region, Luhansk, last month.
The region’s governor, Oleh Senegubov, said the Russian strikes also hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, located near the border with Russia. He said two civilians were wounded.

After failing to capture the capital Kyiv early in the war, Russia aimed to capture the eastern Donbass region, made up of Donetsk and Luhansk, which had been partially occupied by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion. It also aims to capture more of the south, as it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine, which launched a counterattack in the south, continues to demand that the West provide it with more long-range artillery as it tries to turn the tide of the conflict. The country has received billions of dollars in Western military aid and weapons since the start of the war.
Ukraine’s defense minister said Kyiv had received four more US-made Hemars missile systems from the United States. The Pentagon said it would provide Ukraine with more HIMARS munitions as part of a lethal aid package worth up to $550 million.
Moscow says that Western arms supplies to Ukraine only prolong the conflict and that the supply of long-range weapons justifies Russia’s attempts to expand its control over more Ukrainian territory in order to protect it.

Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special operation” to demilitarize its neighbor. Ukraine and Western countries dismissed this as an unfounded pretext for war.

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