Ukraine grain ship passes Russia’s Black Sea blockade

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — A corn-laden ship on Monday became the first cargo ship to sail from Ukraine in more than five months after the war, passing through Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and raising hope That soon the dire need of food will reach the suffering countries. from falling and rising prices.

The ship’s voyage was the culmination of months of negotiations and an international campaign to extract grain from Ukraine, one of the world’s breadbaskets before the war. Russia’s invasion and blockade, as well as Western sanctions caused by Russian exports and factors such as drought and climate change, have sharply cut global grain supplies, putting millions at risk of famine, especially in the Middle East and Africa. .

The mediators of the United Nations and Turkey, which share the Black Sea coast with Russia and Ukraine, oversaw months of talks in Istanbul. Although discussions veered hopelessly for weeks, in late July the parties reached a deal to free more than 20 million tons of grain.

Compromises can be easily settled: the ship, the Rajoni, is traveling through a war zone, at risk of an attack or accident, and a breach of trust or disagreement between inspectors and officers conducting multinational operations once again allows ships in port. can freeze.

But if the journey that began on Monday goes smoothly, it could be an important step toward bridging shortages and lowering prices, though it alone cannot solve the causes of the global hunger crisis.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, “Ensuring that developing countries have access to food grains, fertilizers and other food-related commodities at reasonable prices is a humanitarian imperative.” “People on the brink of famine need these agreements to work to survive.”

With such high stakes and intense Western and Ukrainian distrust that Russia would actually drop the cargo The ship’s departure from the port, Odessa, was closely monitored on Monday.

Manned mostly by Syrian sailors, Rajoni was carried out of port by a tugboat. Carrying 26,000 tons of corn, ships and tugs first navigated sea mines, were placed by Ukraine to deter any amphibious attack by Russia, and were then passed by ships of the Russian Navy which were largely blackened. They controlled the ocean and provided safe passage.

The ship was prepared to stop in Turkish waters for inspection by a joint team of Turkey, the United Nations, Ukraine and Russia before continuing on to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Alexander Kurbakov, said Rajoni left at around 9:30 a.m. local time. He said 16 more ships are waiting to leave Odessa in the coming days.

If successful, the deal to export grain could have significant economic consequences for Ukraine. The country’s agriculture minister, Mykola Solsky, said last week that Ukraine has $10 billion in grain deposits and that the coming harvest would add another $20 billion to that amount. Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil.

Along with the deal on Ukraine’s produce, another agreement would enable Russia to export grain and fertilizers, easing enormous pressure on markets and farmers, especially in the developing world. Russia, whose exports are hampered by Western sanctions, is a major supplier of fertilizer, and together with Ukraine it supplies more than a quarter of the world’s wheat.

But as Rajoni’s Black Sea crossing raised hopes of some degree of cooperation among fighters, fighting in Ukraine intensified on several fronts.

Preparing for retaliation in the southern Kherson region, Ukraine has used long-range precision weapons, recently supplied by the West, to disrupt Russian supply lines and logistics. Ukrainian forces attacked Russian command and control centers, struck supply routes, tried to isolate Russian forces into pockets and engage Ukrainian sabotages behind enemy lines.

On Monday, Ukrainian officials said that, using US-supplied rocket artillery, their forces blew up a Russian train carrying troops and equipment to reinforce positions in southern Ukraine, killing dozens of soldiers. were killed and several rail cars destroyed.

“According to intelligence data, all drivers and engineers of the Russian railway company, which were transporting military cargo from Crimea to the Kherson region, were killed,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said on Monday morning.

Although their claims could not be independently verified, video of an explosion and subsequent satellite imagery offered evidence that Ukrainians had intercepted a Russian train along one of the two main rail lines running from Crimea to southern Ukraine. was killed

The Ukrainian military also said on Monday that it had destroyed at least 15 ammunition depots in the south in recent weeks, prompting Russia to use surface-to-air missiles to strike ground targets. Sufficient supply to force has been affected. Western analysts have said that as the war progresses, the Russians are relying more on warships that are perfect for bombing Ukrainian cities, or designed for other uses, causing indiscriminate damage. — and possibly indicating that it is running low on the most advanced precision weapon, Arms.

The Pentagon said last week that Ukraine was using Western weapons to increase its influence, and that much was happening. Genius in attacking Russian command and control centers and destroying large quantities of Russian equipment. On Monday, the Biden administration announced another round of support for Ukraine: $550 million in military aid, including 155-millimeter howitzer artillery pieces and more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS , which the United States has already provided.

But in spite of all its sluggish or faltering progress in the war, Russia has retained vast advantages in the size of its arsenal, and its forces have shown a willingness and ability to attack across the country, even as it reaches the East. Focuses on acquiring land in Ukraine. There, Russia has blanketed city after city with heavy artillery fire as it tries to move ground forces forward.

The strategy gradually gave Russia control of eastern Luhansk province, leaving many towns and villages in ruin. Russian forces have since moved to reinforce the south and push into another eastern province, Donetsk.

Serhi Haidai, the head of Ukraine’s Luhansk regional government, said Monday that “their strategy is the same as it was during the hostilities in the Luhansk region.”

He said the Russians were making daily attempts to attack the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk, but had so far failed to breach the main Ukrainian defensive lines.

Russian forces have also continued to shell residential and military areas in and around the city of Kharkiv in the northeast, pressuring Ukraine not to move many of its strongholds from there.

In Chuhuiv, in the Kharkiv region and just 10 miles from Russian lines, residents were still recovering on Monday from missile attacks last week on the House of Culture, a building used since Soviet times for cultural events. In wartime, the building’s kitchen was used to prepare food for the needy, but members of the city government also used it as a temporary office, possibly a cause of attack.

According to Kharkiv regional administrator Oleh Sinyehubov, the missiles killed three people sheltering in the basement and wounded several others. Residents said a volunteer cook was among the dead. His brother and many others survived.

Two women also died, one of whom was helping the cook, said a resident, who only gave his first name, Maxim, wary of possible retaliation. They were cooking plov, a Uzbek rice dish, for the neighbors.

“She was just cleaning the vegetables,” said Maksim.

Chuhuiv has been vulnerable to increased bombing in recent days, as has the city of Kharkiv and other villages and towns in the province. Soldiers guarding the route to the city on Sunday said artillery attacks had been steady for most of the day, affecting an industrial area around the railway station.

Maksim said, the Russians are “killing all the schools, too, in many places like this.” “They’re doing this to make people leave.”

People were getting the message, and the city was largely empty, he said. He was also preparing to leave, he said. He and his family had plans to move to Canada.

“There’s nothing left here,” he said.

Michael Schwartz Mykolaiv, reported from Ukraine, matina stevis-gridneff more from brussels Matthew Mpok Big from London. Reporting was contributed by carlotta gallo And kamila harabchuki Chuhuiv, from Ukraine, Mark Santora from London and alan yuhaso from New York.

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