According to Ukrainian and Turkish officials, a ship carrying grain left the Ukrainian port of Odesa for Lebanon on Monday under a safe passage arrangement, the first departure since the Russian invasion shut down transportation across the Black Sea five months ago.

Ukraine’s foreign minister described it as “a day of relief for the world” particularly for countries facing food shortages and famine as a result of the halted supplies.

The voyage was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations mediated a grain-and-fertilizer export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month, a rare diplomatic achievement in a conflict with no end in sight.

“The first grain ship since #RussianAggression has left port,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov remarked. “Today Ukraine, together with its partners, makes another step to prevent world hunger.”

After passing through the Bosporus Strait, the Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni will sail to Lebanon.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 triggered a global food and energy crisis, and the UN has warned of the possibility of numerous famines this year.

Russia and Ukraine are responsible for approximately one-third of worldwide wheat exports. However, Western sanctions against Russia and fighting along Ukraine’s eastern shoreline stopped grain cargoes from leaving ports securely.

The agreement intends to ensure the secure transit of grain shipments into and out of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi.

“The day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, as the first Ukrainian grain leaves Odesa after months of Russian blockade.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

Moscow has denied involvement for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowed supplies and Ukraine for mining its port approaches. The resignation of Razoni was hailed as “very positive” news by the Kremlin.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the ship would anchor off the coast of Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and be inspected by a joint team of Russian, Ukrainian, United Nations, and Turkish officials.

“It will then continue as long as no problems arise,” Akar said.

According to Ukrainian presidential officials, 17 ships are docked in Black Sea ports with about 600,000 tonnes of cargo, predominantly grain. Kubrakov predicted that more ships would follow.

Abdullah Jendi, a junior engineer on board, stated that the entire crew was relieved to be moving following their lengthy stay at Odesa. Jendi, a Syrian, said he hadn’t seen his family in over a year.

“It is an indescribable feeling to be returning to my home country after suffering from the siege and the dangers that we were facing due to the shelling,” he told Reuters. “The great fear knowing that at any moment something could happen to us because of the airstrikes.”

He stated of the journey ahead: “The idea that there are naval mines makes me nervous. We’ll need two to three hours to get out of regional seas. We hope that nothing bad happens and that we don’t make any mistakes.”

“The world will be watching for continued implementation of this agreement to feed people around the world with millions of tons of trapped Ukrainian grain.” said the US Embassy in Kyiv.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed optimism that this will be the beginning of many such deliveries.

Source: Reuters

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