After months of Russian siege, the first grain ship from Ukraine departs from Odesa.

After months of Russian blockade, THE FIRST Ukrainian grain ship departs from Odesa. Jennifer Kakissis


Expand this picture Getty Images/Olekandr Gimanov Ukraine’s ODESA For the first time since Russia’s invasion on February 24, a cargo ship carrying 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn departed the nation’s main port on Monday.

The achievement follows agreements that the UN and Turkey struck on July 22 with Russia and Ukraine to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports and resume grain, cooking oil, and fertilizer exports. In order to solve the growing global food scarcity, the U.N. had pressed for a settlement.

A BIT OF GOOD NEWS IS PROVIDED BY UKRAINE AMIDST A GLOBAL FOOD SHORTAGE Oleksandr Kubrakov, the minister of Ukraine’s infrastructure, recorded the ship, the Razoni, as it sailed away and hailed the U.N. agreement as “a major victory for delivering world food security.” In a few weeks, Ukrainian ports would be operating at full capacity, he claimed on Facebook.

Expand this picture NPR/Joanna Kakissis Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, also mentioned the ship’s departure and described it as “extremely encouraging.” In order to export its grain and fertilizer, which are still prohibited by Western financial and transportation sanctions, Russia struck a separate arrangement with Turkey.

EUROPE For the Ukrainian economy to avoid collapsing, this agreement must succeed.

According to Alla Stoyanova, director of agriculture for the Odesa region, “Ukraine used to earn 45 percent of its general income from the agriculture sector.” “Almost every other sector has collapsed since the Russian invasion. So, now, agricultural exports are our currency, our economy, and our way of life.”

Expand this picture NPR/Joanna Kakissis It’s important to keep exports moving forward. Despite the fighting, farmers continue to labor in their fields, occasionally donning helmets and bulletproof vests. There isn’t enough room to keep the crops anymore. They cannot afford to sow the crop for the following year.

EUROPE GRAIN LEAVES THE PORT IN UKRAINE AND CALLS GROW FOR A QUESTIONING OF POWS’ DEATHS Viacheslav Nevmerzhytskyi, who cultivates wheat and sunflowers close to the Pivdennyi port, not far from Odesa, expresses concern that the Russians might even bomb the ships carrying Ukrainian goods and then try to pin it on Ukraine.

Unless there are significant security guarantees, such as NATO manning the ports, he claims, “I don’t see this maritime corridor lasting until the new year.”

Expand this picture NPR/Joanna Kakissis Since the grain export agreements were struck, Russia has frequently shelled the Odesa port and surrounding area. While this is going on, experts from the Ukrainian military are demining the area close to the ship lanes.

At Ukrainian ports, which are now governed by the military, security is already strict.

At least 68 ships, according to Dmytro Barinov, deputy head of Ukraine’s Seaport Authority, are still stranded in its Black Sea ports. The majority are packed with grain.

Some of them keep loading, he says. “They’re waiting for these passageways to function so they can leave, possibly in a kind of seaside caravan.”
From Odesa, Hanna Palamarenko and Pavel Zilinskiy provided reporting.

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