Lebanon, where the Razoni heads, has been plagued by years of economic and political turmoil. On Sunday, part of its damaged grain silos in the 2020 Port of Beirut explosion collapsed, few days shy of the second 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 crucial role as mediator of the agreement.
Expedition Monitoring Site marinetraffic.com showed the ship moving southeast of Odessa at 12:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET).
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, although news of the ship’s departure was covered by Russian state media on Monday, citing Ukrainian and Turkish officials.
‘Progress in getting grain to feed millions around the world,’ US Ambassador to Ukraine says Bridget A. Brink said in a Tweeter marking the departure of the ship. But while this is good news, Brink said Moscow must end his assault about Ukrainians and their agricultural land.
The landmark departure comes as Russian forces continue to shell towns across Ukraine, threatening to overturn the grain deal as they seek to continue their offensive in the east and retain territory they have already seized in the south.
Ukrainian officials said a Russian strike on another major port city, Mykolaiv, killed one of the country’s agricultural tycoons, Oleksiy Vadatursky, and his wife on Sunday. Vadatursky was the founder of one of Ukraine’s largest agricultural enterprises, “Nibulon”, and one of the people who helped ensure global food security, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said in his address on Sunday eveningoffering his condolences to his family.
Zelenskyy and ambassadors from the Group of Seven countries visited a port in the Odessa region last week where they observed ships loaded with grain.
“It is important for us to remain the guarantor of global food security,” he said in a message on his Telegram channel. “While someone takes the lives of other countries by blockading the Black Sea, we allow them to survive.”
Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, is known as “Europe’s breadbasket” and supplies an average of 45 million tonnes of wheat annually to the world, according to the UN.
But the Russian invasion has stalled shipments, sending food prices skyrocketing and the UN has warned that shortages could push some countries to the brink of starvation. Western leaders accused the Russian president Vladimir Poutine to use food as a weapon.
Hopes were raised last month when both sides reached an agreement in Istanbul to end the blockade and allow the shipment of grain. Negotiated by the UN and Turkey, the deal allowed commercial food export shipments to resume from three key Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
But less than 24 hours after signing the agreement, Russian missiles hit the port of Odessa. Zelenskyy criticized 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 the implementation of the agreement. Hosted in Istanbul, the center will be led by representatives from Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.
“I am optimistic that their swift collective action will quickly and directly translate into much-needed relief for the world’s most vulnerable food-insecure people,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths. when launching the center.
The center will monitor the movement of commercial vessels carrying grain and related foodstuffs out of 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 ships to avoid sea mines, UN says
The center will also coordinate the inspection of grain loading at the three ports, as well as vessels entering ports along the agreed shipping route.
On Monday, Secretary General Antonio Guterres rented the work of the center to bring about the departure of the Razoni, and expressed the hope that it will be the first of many other commercial vessels to set sail, bringing “the stability and relief much needed for global food security, especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts”.