First Ukrainian grain shipment completes checks in Turkey

First Ukrainian grain shipment completes checks in Turkey

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ISTANBUL: A Russian and Ukrainian team on Wednesday completed a high-stakes inspection of the first shipment of grain from Ukraine since the Kremlin’s invasion five months ago helped spark a global food crisis.

The checks aboard the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni in Istanbul were being watched closely for signs of how well the first agreement signed by Moscow and Kyiv since Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbour can hold.

A deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations last month lifted a Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea cities and set terms for millions of tonnes of wheat and other grain to start flowing from Ukraine’s filled silos and ports.

Ukraine exports roughly half of the sunflower oil used on the world market and is one of the world’s main supplies of grain.

An almost complete halt to its exports helped push up global food prices and make imports prohibitively expensive in some of the poorest countries in the world.

The Razoni is due to deliver more than 26,000 tonnes of maize to Lebanon — a crisis-wracked country that imports more than 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia.

The ship sailed through a specially designated corridor in the mine-infested waters of the Black Sea before reaching the northern edge of the Bosphorus Strait on Tuesday.

A team of 20 inspectors from the two warring parties and the UN and Turkey strapped on orange helmets and boarded the ship early Wednesday for a check that officials said lasted less than 90 minutes.

The 186-metre (610-foot) long vessel is now due to sail down the Bosphorus Strait in the heart of Istanbul before moving on to the Marmara and Aegean seas.

The UN secretary general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said he hoped for “more outbound movement” from Ukraine on Wednesday.

Kyiv says at least 16 more grain ships are waiting to depart.

But it also accuses Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain in territories seized by Kremlin forces and then shipping it to allied countries such as Syria.

But Turkish hopes that the grain deal could help build trust and lead to ceasefire talks have so far proved futile.

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