First grain ship departs from Ukraine, arriving in Istanbul on Tuesday

The first ship to export Ukrainian grain since the Russian invasion five months ago departed the country's Odesa port on Monday and will be in Istanbul on Tuesday, Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.

The ship is scheduled to be “anchored off the coast of Istanbul around 3 p.m. local time for a joint inspection," state-run Anadolu news agency cited Akar as saying on Monday.

Following inspections in the Turkish megacity, the ship carrying a cargo of 26,527 tonnes of corn, will continue on its way to the port of Tripoli, Akar said.

Russia and Ukraine signed a deal on July 22 to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports following two months of diplomatic efforts by the United Nations and Turkey. The accord, signed in Istanbul, is designed to restore Ukrainian exports from the Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny ports, while also easing Russian grain and fertiliser shipments despite tough Western sanctions.

Earlier on Monday, shipping tracking website MarineTraffic.com reported that the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni set sail for Lebanon at 10 a.m. local time.

"The first grain ship since Russian aggression has left port. Thanks to the support of all our partner countries and the U.N. we were able to fully implement the agreement signed in Istanbul," Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Twitter. 

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the ship's departure as “very positive,” saying it would help test the “efficiency of the mechanisms that were agreed to during the talks in Istanbul,” the Associated Press reported.

"I welcome the first shipment of Ukrainian grain from Odessa under the UN-brokered deal. I thank our ally Turkey for its pivotal role," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a Twitter post on Monday.

The United Nations and Turkey opened a joint centre with Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul last Tuesday to coordinate delivery of the grain to international destinations via the Black Sea.

Since the Russian invasion that began in February, grain shipments from Ukrainian-controlled ports on the Black Sea have stalled, with some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos, threatening a worldwide food crisis.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was important that Ukraine remained the guarantor of global food security during a visit to the port in Odesa on Friday.

The amount of grain to be exported could reach 25 million tonnes by the end of the year, Ibrahim Kalın, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy adviser, said in an interview with Bloomberg last week. The three ports in question have a maximum combined capacity of 3.5 million tons a month, according to a study by UkrAgroConsul, Bloomberg reported

(This story re-leads with statement from Turkish defence minister and has been updated throughout with shipment details, remarks from U.N.chief, Moscow.) 

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