Four more grain ships leave Ukraine to ease the global food crisis
Four ships carrying grain and other agricultural products sailed from Ukrainian ports on Sunday, heading to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain producers, and millions of tonnes of grain have been stuck in Ukraine due to Russian blockades, leading to shortages and higher food prices in other countries.
The first of the ships carrying Ukrainian corn grains left the port of Odesa for Lebanon in early August for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion, according to Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry.
After weeks of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, led by Turkey and the United Nations, The Sierra Leone-flagged ship ‘Razoni’, carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn, finally set sail.
Image: Pierre Bamin/Unsplash
Ukraine's foreign minister called it "a day of relief for the world", especially for countries threatened by food shortages and hunger because of the disrupted shipments.
Oleksandr Kubrakov (pictured), Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, said: “Ukraine, together with our partners, has taken another step today in preventing world hunger.”
Kubrakov stressed that Ukraine had done everything to restore the ports and said the lifting of the blockade would give Ukraine’s economy $1bn in foreign exchange revenue, adding that more ships would follow.
The blockade has caused a worldwide grain shortage and price rises, which pushed some countries that are reliant on grain imports, mainly in the Middle East and Africa, towards famine.
The Kremlin called the ‘Razoni’'s departure “very positive” news, according to Reuters, but denied any responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions instead.
“Progress in getting grain to feed millions around the world,” U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink said in a tweet, marking the ship’s departure.
However, Brink added that, while it’s positive news, Moscow must end its assault on Ukrainians and their agricultural land.
The milestone departure came as Russian forces continued to pound cities across Ukraine, threatening to upend the grain deal as they seek to press their offensive in the east and hold onto territory they've already seized in the south.
Three civilians were killed by Russian shelling in Donetsk region, 24 hours before the departure of ‘Razoni’, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
An industrial city and transport hub, Bakhmut has been under Russian bombardment as the Kremlin's forces try to occupy all of the Donetsk region.
On the other hand, a junior engineer on the vessel, Abdullah Jendi, who is Syrian, told Reuters all the crew were very happy to be moving after their prolonged stay in Odesa (Ukraine).
Nevertheless, he also said that they were scared of naval mines. “We need around two to three hours to exit regional waters. We hope that nothing will happen and that we will not commit any mistake”, he told Reuters.
The latest ships to set sail are bound for Turkey where they'll be inspected as part of the deal reached with Russia and the United Nations. They left on Sunday from the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk, and will all travel through the Bosphorus strait.
After the inspections, two are then scheduled to dock in Turkey, while the others are headed for Italy and China. The deal, set to last 120 days, can be renewed if both sides agree.