The first Ukrainian grain shipment under a new international framework has departed the port city of Odessa.
“As part of safe shipment of Ukrainian grain over the Black Sea, first ship departed from Ukraine,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted. “We hope this process will continue without interruptions & problems. We’ll do what is necessary to this end. We hope that the agreement will lead to a ceasefire & lasting peace,” he continued.
The cargo ship, loaded with 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn, left Odessa for the port of Tripoli in Lebanon. Turkish officials said the vessel will be inspected in Istanbul before heading to its destination.
"This ship … is loaded with two commodities in short supply: corn, and hope,” said UN chief Antonio Guterres. “Hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the smooth running of Ukraine’s ports to feed their families.”
News of the first grain shipment was welcomed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as “a very positive development,” according to Russian state media.
The shipment is part of a four-way deal between Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, and the UN to establish maritime corridors for the safe passage of grain exports out of Ukrainian ports in the coastal cities of Odessa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny. The deal, formalized earlier this month, subjects ships coming in and out of Ukraine to inspection by Turkish officials in order to mitigate Russian concerns of weapons smuggling. The shipments will be coordinated and monitored out of a “control center” in Istanbul, which is staffed by officials from all four participating sides.
The deal comes as a lifeline to Ukraine’s moribund economy, crippled for months by a Russian-enforced Black Sea blockade that has prevented grain shipments from leaving Ukrainian ports. Ukraine accounted for 10 percent of global wheat exports in 2021 and around 40 percent of the World Food Program’s (WFP’s) wheat supplies. Top UN officials previously warned that the Black Sea blockade was amplifying the challenge of global food insecurity.
The Russian military launched a missile strike against Odessa shortly following the deal’s passage, prompting accusations of bad faith from Kyiv and Western governments. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov defended the strike, insisting that “there is nothing in the commitments that Russia signed up to in Istanbul on July 22 that would prohibit us from continuing our special military operation, destroying military infrastructure and other military targets.” Russian forces struck Mykolaiv, a port city not far from Odessa, on Sunday, killing Ukrainian grain tycoon Oleksiy Vadaturskyy and his wife, Raisa. There is currently no indication that Vadaturskyy, who was reportedly sheltering in his home basement when Russian missiles and rockets rained down on Mykolaiv, was deliberately targeted by Russian forces.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.