Inspectors accept 1st Ukrainian grain ship but no further signs

ISTANBUL (AP) — The first grain ship to leave Ukraine and cross the Black Sea under a wartime deal passed inspection Wednesday in Istanbul and headed for Lebanon. Ukraine said another 17 ships were “loaded and awaiting clearance to leave”, but it was not yet clear when they might leave.

A joint civilian inspection team spent three hours checking the cargo and crew of the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni, which left Odessa on Monday with Ukrainian maize, according to a UN statement.

The Joint Coordination Center team included Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations officials, who signed agreements last month create safe shipping corridors in the Black Sea to export agricultural products that Ukraine desperately needs as Russia’s war on its neighbor continues.

Ukraine is a major global grain supplier, but the war had blocked most exports, so the July 22 deal was aimed at facilitating food security around the world. Global food prices have soared in a crisis blamed on war, supply chain issues and COVID-19.

Although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Razoni’s voyage a “significant milestone”, no other ships have left Ukraine in the past 48 hours and no explanation has been given for the delay. .

A UN statement said inspectors “obtained valuable information” from the crew of the Razoni on their journey through the Black Sea Maritime Humanitarian Corridor and that the coordination center was “finishing the details”. procedures”.

Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense tweeted a picture of an inspector reaching the Razoni’s hold and touching some of its 26,527 tons of corn for chicken feed. The Razoni’s horn sounded as the inspectors left the ship, then it headed for Lebanon.

The checks aim to ensure that outgoing cargo ships only carry grain, fertilizer or food and not other goods, and that incoming ships do not carry weapons.

An estimated 20 million tonnes of grain – most of which is believed to be for livestock – has been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month war. Ukraine’s top diplomat said on Wednesday that more ships were ready to ferry much-needed grain and food out of the country’s Black Sea ports.

“Other ships are already ready for departure. They will depart from the ports that are part of the grain initiative according to the agreed timetable, and we hope that everything will be fine and that the Russian Federation will not take any measures that would destroy these agreements,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a joint press conference in Kyiv with his Estonian counterpart.

Kuleba said the UN-backed deal “is good for Ukrainian farmers, it’s good for Ukraine’s economy, and it’s good for the world.”

“It is now Ukraine that is literally saving the world from further food price increases and hunger in some countries,” he said.

However, a trip to the Black Sea carries significant risks due to the war. Two civilian ships hit explosive devices there last week near the Bystre estuary of the Danube, according to Bridget Diakun, data reporter at Lloyd’s List, a global maritime publication.

According to analysts, the first priority of the authorities is to get out the ships blocked for months in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the agreement. Sixteen grain-laden ships have been stuck in the ports of Odessa and Chernomorsk since the Russian invasion, according to Lloyd’s List.

Even slower than that is the effort to bring ships into Ukrainian ports to extract the millions of tonnes of stored grain.

Insurance brokers are “cautious, slow, so far,” said David Osler, insurance editor at Lloyd’s List. “At this point, everyone hesitates.”

Grain stocks are expected to continue to grow. Despite the war, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has estimated that his country will harvest up to 67 million tonnes of grain this year, up from 60 million tonnes last year.

A senior official of a major Ukrainian agricultural association estimated that Ukraine will have around 50 million tonnes of grain to export this year.

Before the war, Ukraine exported about 5 to 6 million tons of grain per month, according to Denys Marchuk, deputy director of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council. He said Ukrainian authorities hoped to include more Black Sea ports in the export deal.

In other news Wednesday:

__ Russian forces continued their bombardment of the port city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim said the shelling damaged a pier, an industrial enterprise, residential buildings, a garage cooperative, a supermarket and a pharmacy. Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych told The Associated Press that 131 civilians have died so far in the city due to Russian shelling and 590 others have been seriously injured.

__ The Ukrainian military said Ukrainian forces had repelled more than a dozen Russian assaults in the key eastern province of Donetsk and claimed that none of the Russian attempts to advance in the past 24 hours had succeeded . Still, Russian shelling killed at least four civilians in Donetsk province, Ukraine’s presidential office said. President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered all those who besieged province to be evacuated as soon as possible.

__ The UN chief said he was appointing a fact-finding mission in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to investigate an explosion at a prisoner-of-war prison in a breakaway region of the eastern Ukraine which allegedly killed 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war and injured 75 others. -General Antonio Guterres told reporters that he does not have the power to carry out criminal investigations, but he does have the power to carry out fact-finding missions. Both sides said last Friday’s assault was premeditated to cover up atrocities.

__ Moscow has drastically reduced the amount of gas it sends to Europe, raising fears that it may stop sending much-needed fuel. In the entire Europe, nations rush to cut energy use this summer so they can fill gas storage tanks for the cold winter ahead.

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Robert Badendieck and Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul, Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Joanna Kozlowska in London and Edith Lederer in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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