For the first time since the first days of the war, a grain ship departed from a key Ukrainian port

The Razoni was the first commercial vessel to leave the crucial Black Sea port since February 26, two days after Russia launched its offensive against Ukraine.

It is bound for the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, carrying about 26,500 metric tons (more than 29,000 US tons) of corn, according to the United Nations.

The journey comes after a breakthrough agreement brokered by the UN and Turkey and signed by representatives of Russia and Ukraine in July that helps restart vital grain exports. About 20 million metric tons of wheat and corn are stranded in the port of Odessa, US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Samantha Power said last week.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Monday “a day of relief for the whole world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”

Under the terms of the deal, the ship will anchor off the coast of Istanbul around 3:00 pm local time (8:00 am ET) on Tuesday, where it will be inspected before sailing to its final destination.

From the first days of the war, the southern ports of Ukraine were blocked by Russia, which prevented Ukrainian grain from being delivered to many countries that depend on it.

The agreement was concluded on July 23. promised to unblock ports on the Black Sea to ensure the safe passage of grains and oilseeds along the routes indicated by Ukrainian sea pilots to avoid mines, and with stops in Istanbul to ensure that weapons are not smuggled back into the country.
This followed months of diplomacy and raised hopes around the world, but the stability of the deal was tested within hours when Russian aircraft attacked Odessa.
Why is the export of Ukrainian grain so important and how will the deal work?

Senior Western diplomats reacted to Monday’s departure with cautious optimism, welcoming the resumption of grain exports but urging Russia to stick to the deal.

“This is such an important step, but this is the first step,” British Ambassador to Kyiv Melinda Simmons tweeted on Monday. “[Russia] now you need to fulfill your part of this deal and let the grain ships pass safe and sound. And they need to stop burning and misappropriating [Ukrainian] corn.”

“The world will follow the continuation of this agreement in order to feed people around the world with millions of tons of stuck Ukrainian grain,” the US embassy in Kyiv added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that the shipment was “very positive.”

“This is a good opportunity to test the effectiveness of the mechanisms that were agreed during the Istanbul talks,” he said.

According to the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul, on Monday no additional shipments of grain are expected to be sent from the Black Sea ports of Ukraine. The JCC will oversee the export of Ukrainian grain. According to the centre, dates and times for further deliveries are still being worked out and will likely only be finalized after the first shipment passes inspection in Istanbul on Tuesday.

The ship is expected to arrive in Istanbul for inspection before heading to Lebanon.

Ukraine and Russia are important food suppliers in the world. In normal times, Ukraine would export about three-quarters of its grain production. According to the European Commission, about 90% of these exports were shipped by sea from the Black Sea ports.

The UN hopes that under the agreement, 5 million tons of US grain will be exported from the ports every month, comparable to pre-war levels.

But despite the optimism associated with the agreement, the Russian invasion still hit Ukraine’s crops hard.

Last month, the Ukrainian Grain Traders Union said it expected a grain and oilseed crop of 69.4 million tons, slightly above previous forecasts but well below last year’s 106 million tons.