The first ship carrying grain has left a Ukrainian port under a landmark deal with Russia.
Turkish and Ukrainian officials say 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 made a deal to resume shipments.
It is hoped the agreement will ease the global food crisis and lower the price of grain.
Turkey said the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel, the Razoni, would dock at the port of Tripoli in Lebanon, adding that further shipments would be planned over the coming weeks.
The Joint Co-ordination Centre, set up in Istanbul under the deal, said the ship was carrying some 26,000 tonnes of corn and was expected to arrive in Turkish waters for inspection on Tuesday.
United Nations (UN) Secretary General, António Guterres, welcomed the departure of the ship and hailed Turkey for its role in working to implement the agreement.
“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.”
While the sight of the Razoni, with her stowed white cranes and long blue hull, inching out into the mine-infested Black Sea represented a significant development, the operation will have to last for a sustained period for either Ukraine’s damaged economy or tens of millions of people around the world to benefit.
But Mr Kubrakov emphasised that 16 other ships were waiting to sail out of ports in southern Ukraine, with Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny expected to be the main places of export.
Last month’s deal – brokered by the UN and Turkey – took two months to reach and was set to last for120 days. It could be renewed if both parties agree.
The blockade of Ukraine’s grain has contributed to a global food crisis with wheat-based products such as bread and pasta becoming more expensive, and cooking oils and fertiliser also increasing in price. -BBCRead Full Story