“A glimmer of hope”: a ship with Ukrainian grain leaves the port of Odessa

The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine five months ago left the port of Odessa for Lebanon on Monday under a safe passage agreement that has been described as a glimmer of hope amid a deepening global food crisis.
The sailing became possible after Turkey and the UN reached an agreement last month to export grains and fertilizers between Russia and Ukraine, a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that has turned into a protracted war of attrition.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni will head to the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, after passing through Turkey’s Bosphorus, which connects the Russian-dominated Black Sea with the Mediterranean. It carries 26,527 tons of corn.

But there are still obstacles to be overcome before millions of tons of Ukrainian grain can leave the Black Sea ports, including the clearance of sea mines and the creation of conditions for the safe entry of ships into the conflict zone and receiving cargo.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 led to a worldwide food and energy crisis, and the United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he hopes Tuesday’s departure will be the first of many such shipments and that the UN will charter a ship to resupply aid.

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

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called it “a day of relief for the whole world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.”
Known as Europe’s breadbasket, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of its current crop, initially from Odessa and nearby Yuzhny and Chornomorsk, to help clear silos for the new crop.
Moscow denies any involvement in the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports and accusing Ukraine of planting underwater mines at the entrance to its ports. The Kremlin called Razoni’s departure “very positive” news.

According to VesselsValue, a London-based maritime intelligence provider, trade from Black Sea ports in Russia rebounded in mid-May after falling in April, although it has eased slightly in recent weeks.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the ship will anchor off Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon and be inspected by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the UN and Turkey.
“This will continue until there are problems,” Akar said.
Before Razoni’s departure, 17 ships with almost 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain, were in Black Sea ports, according to Ukrainian officials. Countries have expressed hope that others will follow.

“This is a glimmer of hope in the face of a worsening food crisis,” a spokesman for the German foreign ministry said at a government briefing.

Russian-Ukrainian war

An agricultural implement harvests a wheat field outside the city center as the Russian-Ukrainian war continues in Zolochiv, Lviv region, Ukraine, August 1, 2022. Source: Getty / Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Relief

The ship’s junior engineer, Abdullah Jendi, said the crew were happy to move after a long stay in Odessa and that he, a Syrian, had not seen his family for over a year.
“It is an indescribable feeling to return to our homeland after suffering the blockade and the dangers that we faced because of the shelling,” he said.

He said he feared the ship could hit a mine in the hours it would take to exit regional waters.

The US Embassy in Kyiv also welcomed the resumption of supplies and said the world would be waiting for the continuation. Wheat and corn prices fell in Chicago amid hopes that grain exports from Ukraine could resume on a large scale.
Key arrangements, including delivery procedures, still need to be worked out before empty ships can enter and pick up cargo from Ukraine along the new corridor, Neil Roberts, head of marine and aviation insurance at Lloyds Market Association, told Reuters.

“There is some way,” Mr. Roberts said.

Russian-Ukrainian war

A Ukrainian man inspects his destroyed house, burned to the ground by shelling during the Russian-Ukrainian war, in Opytnoye, Donetsk region, Ukraine, August 1, 2022. Source: Getty / Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Bombing in the south and east

Oblast Governor Pavel Kirilenko said that due to ongoing fighting over the past 24 hours, Russian shelling in eastern Donetsk Oblast has killed three civilians — two in Bakhmut and one in nearby Soledar.
An industrial city and transport hub, Bakhmut has been under Russian bombardment for the past week as Kremlin forces attempt to occupy all of Donetsk after taking over much of neighboring Luhansk region last month.
Russian strikes also hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city close to the border with Russia, Oleg Sinegubov, the region’s governor, said. According to him, two civilians were injured.

Having failed to capture the capital Kyiv at the start of the war, Russia is aiming to seize the eastern part of the Donbas, consisting of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were partly occupied by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion. He also sought to capture more of the south, where he annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine, which launched a counter-offensive in the south, continues to ask the West for more long-range artillery in an attempt to turn the tide of the conflict. The country has received billions of dollars of Western military aid and weapons since the start of the war.
The Minister of Defense of Ukraine said that Kyiv received four more American-made HIMARS 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 argues that Western arms supplies to Ukraine are only prolonging the conflict, and that longer-range arms shipments justify Russia’s attempts to extend control over more of Ukraine for its own protection.

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