Lebanon, where the Razoni is headed, has been ravaged by years of economic and political turmoil. On Sunday, some of the grain silos damaged by the explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020 collapsed, just days before the two-year anniversary of the devastating explosion.
Before heading to Tripoli, the ship will reach the Turkish capital of Istanbul on Tuesday, where it will be inspected, the Turkish defense ministry said. The country played a vital role in brokering the deal.
Shipping monitor site: marinetraffic.com showed the ship headed for southeast Odessa at 12:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET).
There was no immediate response from Moscow, although news of the ship’s departure was reported in Russian state media on Monday, citing Ukrainian and Turkish officials.
“Progress in obtaining grain to feed millions around the world,” US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink said in a tweet mark the departure of the ship. But while it’s positive news, Brink said Moscow should end his attack on Ukrainians and their farmland.
The landmark departure comes as Russian forces continue to pound cities across Ukraine, threatening to revise the grain deal as they try to push through their offensive in the east and hold onto territory they’ve already taken in the south. .
Ukrainian officials said a Russian attack on another major port city, Mykolaiv, killed one of the country’s agricultural magnates, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife on Sunday. Vadatursky was the founder of one of the largest Ukrainian agricultural companies, “Nibulon”, and one of the people who contributed to guaranteeing the world’s food security, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said in his address late on sundaycondolences to his family.
Zelenskyy and ambassadors from the Group of Seven Nations visited a port in the Odessa region last week where they saw ships being loaded with grain.
“It is important for us to continue to guarantee global food security,” he said in a message on his Telegram channel. “While someone takes the lives of other countries while blocking the Black Sea, let’s let them survive.”
Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, is known as “Europe’s breadbasket” and supplies an average of 45 million tons of wheat annually, according to the UN.
But the Russian invasion blocked shipments, raising the price of food and warning the UN that shortages could push some countries to the brink of famine. Western leaders accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using food as a weapon.
Hopes were sparked last month when the two sides struck a deal in Istanbul to end the blockade and allow grain to be transported. The agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey, allowed shipments of commercial food exports to resume from three major Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
But less than 24 hours after the deal was signed, Russian missiles hit the port of Odessa. Zelenskyy rebuffed the attack, saying it proved Russia could not be trusted to honor its international agreements.
But last Wednesday, the UN inaugurated a joint coordination center to oversee implementation of the deal. The center is hosted in Istanbul and run by representatives from Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.
“I am hopeful that their swift collective action will translate quickly and directly into much-needed relief for the most vulnerable people with food insecurity around the world,” said UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths at the center’s launch.
The center will monitor the movements of commercial ships carrying grain and related food products from the Black Sea to ensure that both sides adhere to the agreement.
Boats carrying commercial food exports will be guided out of the Black Sea by Ukrainian pilot vessels, according to UN to avoid naval mines
The center also coordinates the inspection of grain loading in the three ports, as well as ships entering the ports along the agreed shipping route.
On Monday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the center’s work to bring about the departure of the Razoni, expressing its hope that it will be the first of many more commercial vessels to depart, bringing “the much-needed stability and relief to global food security , especially in the most vulnerable humanitarian contexts.”