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The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain was on its way to Istanbul after departing from the Black Sea port of Odessa on August 1 under a UN-brokered deal, raising moderate hopes that a global food crisis imminent can be avoided.

Ukraine and Russia signed agreements with Turkey and the United Nations on July 22 in Istanbul to release three of Ukraine’s ports – Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenniy – which had been blocked since Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.

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Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the Sierra Leone-flagged freighter Razoni left Odessa on the morning of August 1, and Turkey’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the vessel was expected to arrive. Istanbul on August 2.

“The first grain ship since the #Russianaggression has left port. Thanks to the support of all our partner countries and the UN, we were able to fully implement the agreement signed in Istanbul,” Kubrakov said. wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed the departure of the first shipment of grain as a “relief for the world”.

“A day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as the first grain of Ukraine leaves Odessa after months of Russian blockade. Ukraine has always been a partner reliable and will remain so if Russia respects it is part of the agreement,” Kuleba tweeted.

The Joint Coordination Center, the Istanbul-based organization that oversees exports, said the Razoni was carrying “more than 26,000 metric tons” of maize.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the state-run Anadolu news agency on August 1 that the Razoni would drop anchor off Istanbul around noon GMT on August 2 for a joint inspection.

The news was welcomed by the international community, with UN chief Antonio Guterres “warmly” welcoming the decision.

“The Secretary-General hopes that this will be the first of many commercial vessels to move in accordance with the signed initiative, and that it will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security, especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts” , the UN said in a statement.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanked alliance member Turkey for its “pivotal role”.

“I welcome the first shipment of Ukrainian grain from Odessa under the UN-brokered deal. I thank our ally Turkey for its pivotal role,” Stoltenberg tweeted.

“NATO allies strongly support the full implementation of the agreement to alleviate the global food crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the news of the Razoni’s departure from Odessa as a “very positive” development and a “good opportunity to test the effectiveness of the mechanisms agreed upon during the talks in Istanbul”.

Russia had bombed Odessa a day after agreeing to the deal, raising questions about its commitment to the deal.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Club of Agrarian Trade Associations (UCAB) said on August 1 that Ukraine exported 3 million tons of agricultural products last month, bypassing its seaports blocked by Russia.

In a statement posted on Facebook, UCAB said agricultural exports last month rose 12% from June, while grain exports rose 21% to 1.7 million tonnes.

More than 20 million tonnes of grain from last year’s harvest are still awaiting export, according to data from Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week that Ukraine was ready to start shipping the millions of tonnes of grain that are in its southern ports.

Ukraine and Russia are two of the largest grain exporters in the world.

News of the expected resumption of grain shipments came as Russian missiles pounded the port city of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on July 31, killing the owner of a major grain exporter, while drone strike hit the Russian Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol.

Oleksiy Vadatursky, 74, founder and owner of the agricultural company Nibulon, and his wife were killed when a missile hit their house, Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim announced on Telegram.

Based in Mykolayiv, a strategically important city bordering the Russian-occupied Kherson region, Nibulon specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn. The company maintains its own fleet and its own shipyard.

Zelenskiy described the death of Vadaturskiy, who had received the Hero of Ukraine award, as a great loss.

The southern Ukrainian town of Nikopol also came under heavy attack, Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

He said up to 50 Grad rockets hit residential areas in Nikopol on July 31, injuring a man and damaging houses and gas and water pipes.

In eastern Ukraine, Russia continued to attempt tactical assaults on the axis of Bakhmut, northeast of Donetsk, the British Ministry of Defense said in its statement. daily newsletter on August 1, adding that the Russians only managed to make slow progress.

British intelligence has suggested Russia is likely adjusting its Donbass offensive after failing to make a decisive operational breakthrough under the plan it has been following since April.

Zelenskiy called on the remaining residents of the Donetsk region to urgently evacuate in what he called a “government decision”.

“Everything is being organised. Full support, full assistance – both logistical and payment. We only need a decision from the people themselves, who haven’t yet on their own,” he said in his July 31 evening address.

“The sooner it is done, the more people leave the Donetsk region now, the less the Russian army will have time to kill,” Zelenskiy said.

In Russian-occupied Sevastopol, five Russian navy personnel were injured in an explosion after a suspected drone flew into the yard of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the port city’s governor has said from Crimea to Moscow, Mikhail Razvozhayev, to the Russian media.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP, AP and BBC

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