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Turkey says ship carrying first Ukrainian grain on track to arrive safely

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ISTANBUL – The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since a Russian invasion blocked exports more than five months ago is on track to arrive safely in Istanbul on Tuesday evening, Turkey said, while the Ukrainians are still afraid of encountering problems.

The ship’s departure Monday from the Ukrainian port of Odessa for Lebanon via Turkey under a safe passage agreement has raised hopes of further such departures that could help ease a raging global food crisis. boom.

Turkey expects around one grain ship to leave Ukrainian ports every day as long as the safe passage agreement is respected, a senior Turkish official, who asked to remain anonymous, said on Tuesday.

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The UN has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year due to the war in Ukraine.

Monday’s sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a dispute that has become a long war of attrition since Russian troops crossed the border on February 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy, in his late-night address on Monday evening, called the ship’s departure a “first positive signal”, but warned it was too early to draw conclusions or predict how things would unfold.

“We cannot have any illusions that Russia will simply refrain from trying to disrupt Ukrainian exports,” Zelenskiy said.

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Ozcan Altunbudak, Turkey’s representative in a coordination center set up to oversee the restart of Ukrainian grain exports, said on Tuesday the ship, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, was about to drop anchor in Istanbul. Tuesday evening.

The only problem so far was a slight delay caused by bad weather, he said. The vessel, which is carrying 26,527 tonnes of maize, was expected to arrive in Istanbul around midnight local time.

It will then be inspected by Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and UN officials as part of the safe passage agreement before continuing its journey to the Lebanese port of Tripoli, its intended final destination.

There are, however, other hurdles to overcome before millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain can leave, including mine clearance and the creation of a framework for ships to safely enter the conflict zone and recover the cargoes.

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Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tonnes of grain stored in silos and 40 million tonnes of the current harvest, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, to help clean the silos for the new crop.

Russia called Razoni’s departure “very positive news”. He denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed his exports.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of laying mines which now float around the Black Sea and pose a hazard to shipping. (Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Andrew Osborn and Michael Perry; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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