First shipment of Ukrainian grain leaves Odesa

The first ship carrying grain has left a Ukrainian port under a landmark deal with Russia, the BBC reports. Turkish and Ukrainian officials said the ship left the southern port of Odesa early on Monday morning local time.

Russia has been blockading Ukrainian ports since February, but the two sides agreed a deal to resume shipments. It is hoped the deal will ease the global food crisis and lower the price of grain.

However, within hours of signing the controversial agreement, under which both sides agreed not to attack ports, Russia launched a missile attack on Odesa itself.

In a statement issued ahead of the ship's departure, Turkey said the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel will dock in Lebanon, adding that further shipments are planned over the coming weeks.

The Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul set up under the deal said the ship is carrying some 26,000 tonnes of corn and is expected to arrive in Turkish waters for inspection on 2 August.

"Today Ukraine, together with partners, takes another step to prevent world hunger," Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov wrote on Facebook.

"Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year."

Image: © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

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