HANDOUT - 01.08.2022, Ukraine, Odessa: Auf diesem von der Pressestelle des ukrainischen Infrastrukturministeriums zur Verfügung gestellten Foto verlässt das unter der Flagge von Sierra Leone fahrende Frachtschiff Razoni mit 26.000 Tonnen ukrainischem Getreide an Bord den Hafen in der Region Odessa. Das erste Schiff mit ukrainischem Getreide verließ den Hafen von Odessa im Rahmen eines international ausgehandelten Abkommens und wird voraussichtlich am Dienstag Istanbul erreichen, wo es inspiziert wird, bevor die Weiterfahrt genehmigt wird. Foto: Uncredited/Ukrainian Infrastucture Ministry Press Office/AP/dpa - ACHTUNG: Nur zur redaktionellen Verwendung und nur mit vollständiger Nennung des vorstehenden Credits +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

For the first time since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, a ship with grain has left the port of Odessa. The freighter “Razoni” loaded with corn left for Lebanon on Monday morning, reported the broadcaster CNN Türk, citing the Turkish Ministry of Defense. Another 16 ships are awaiting departure from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Facebook on Monday.

The maiden voyage was eagerly awaited: just one day after the grain agreement was signed in Istanbul, Russia had fired rockets at the port of Odessa. On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself came to Odessa and assured the skeptics that grain exports would soon be resumed.

The first stop of the “Razoni” loaded with 26,000 tons of corn will be Istanbul. There, the cargo ship flying the flag of the West African state of Sierra Leone is searched in a specially set up control center. In this way, Russia wants to prevent weapons or the like from being transported. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, a Kremlin spokesman called the start of exports “positive” on Monday.

According to Ukrainian figures, more than 20 million tons of last year’s harvest are still waiting to be exported. The grain deal includes export licenses from three Ukrainian ports: Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny (Pivdenny). But Ukraine is under time pressure. The silos urgently need to be cleared because of the upcoming harvest season. The German World Hunger Aid also demands this.

“The ship that left the port of Odessa in the direction of Lebanon this morning could become a ship of hope,” said German Agro Action on request. “When this becomes the start of further exports and thus the blockade is lifted and hunger is no longer used as a weapon”.

Food from Ukraine is urgently needed on the world market – especially in Asia and Africa. The United Nations recently warned of the worst famine in decades. At the beginning of May, the World Food Program (WFP) expected the number of starving people worldwide to increase by 47 million due to the lack of grain exports. The UN organization wrote in an analysis that the strongest increase is to be expected in Africa south of the Sahara.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, tweeted Monday morning: “The day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.” He assured the world market: “Ukraine has always been and will be a reliable partner stay if Russia respects its end of the deal.”

Before the Russian war of aggression, Ukraine was one of the most important grain exporters in the world. Port operations were suspended for security reasons after the Russian invasion at the end of February. Moscow has been accused of blocking Ukrainian grain exports.

Ukraine lost an important source of income – global grain prices rose. The Ukrainian infrastructure minister expects revenues of at least one billion US dollars (around 980 million euros) from the resumption of exports.

Russia is counting on “that the agreement comes too late in the year, so that Ukraine can no longer bring much of its grain to the market,” says Russia expert Michael Kofman, dampening hopes. The Kremlin only approved the agreement “to appear conciliatory towards the Europeans,” the director of the US Center for Naval Analysis CNA said on the podcast “War on the Rocks” last Thursday.