Turkey Says Ship Carrying First Ukrainian Grain on Track for Safe Arrival

ISTANBUL (Reuters) —

Turkey’s representative at the Joint Coordination Centre Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak attends a news conference in Istanbul, Tuesday, after the first ship to carry Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea since Russia invaded Ukraine five months ago, left the port of Odessa for Lebanon. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Russia’s invasion blocked exports more than five months ago is on track to safely arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday night, Turkey said, amid Ukrainian fears it could still run into problems.

The vessel’s departure on Monday from the Ukrainian port of Odessa for Lebanon via Turkey under a safe passage deal has raised hopes of further such departures which could help ease a burgeoning global food crisis.

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

Monday’s sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that has become a drawn-out war of attrition since Russian troops poured over the border on Feb 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in his nightly address late on Monday called the ship’s departure “the first positive signal,” but warned it was too early to draw conclusions or predict how things would play out.

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

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