Turkey said the first shipment of Ukrainian grain since Russia launched its invasion has arrived off Turkey’s coast.
The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni is on its way from the Ukrainian port of Odesa to Lebanon with more than 26,000 tons of corn on board.
But its first stop is Istanbul, where personnel from a special joint coordination center will inspect the ship to make sure it is not carrying weapons or other non-food items under the terms of an agreement reached in late July to resume Ukrainian grain exports amid a global food crisis.
The center includes officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, the four parties involved in brokering the deal.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday the Razoni was “loaded with two commodities in short supply: corn and hope. Hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the smooth running of Ukraine’s ports to feed their families.”
He added, “What we’ve witnessed today in Odesa is an important starting point. It must be the first of many commercial ships bringing relief and stability to global food markets.”
Guterres said that “ensuring that grain, fertilizers, and other food-related items are available at reasonable prices to developing countries is a humanitarian imperative. People on the verge of famine need these agreements to work, in order to survive.”
As part of the renewed shipments, Guterres said the U.N.’s World Food Program plans to soon buy 30,000 metric tons of Ukrainian wheat and ship it out of the country on a U.N.-chartered vessel.
The shipping agreement calls for safe passage of cargo ships traveling from ports in southern Ukraine through waters of the Black Sea that Russia has controlled since its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily video address on Monday evening that the first shipment is "the first positive signal that there is a chance to stop the development of a world food crisis."
However, he cautioned that Russia must be monitored to ensure its compliance with the deal.
"We cannot be under the illusion that Russia will simply refrain from trying to disrupt Ukrainian exports," he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday the departure of the first ship is “very positive” and would help test the “mechanisms that were agreed to during the talks in Istanbul.”
Also Monday, Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv had received more precision rocket systems from the United States. Ukraine has credited the U.S.-made HIMARS rocket systems with helping to slow Russia’s advance in the country’s east.
Reznikov called the military aid “another investment in the security of NATO’s eastern flank and support for democracy” in Europe. He tweeted thanks to U.S. President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the American people.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.