Glimmer of hope as grain ships arrive in Ukraine
Two cargo ships have arrived at a Ukrainian port after travelling through the Black Sea using a new route, Ukrainian port authorities said.
They reached Chornomorsk on Saturday, and were due to load 20,000 tonnes of wheat bound for world markets. Officials said it was the first time civilian ships had reached a Ukrainian port since the collapse of a deal with Russia ensuring the safety of vessels.
Previously the corridor had only been used by ships departing from Ukraine.
Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the ships - Resilient Africa and Aroyat - sailed flying the flag of the Oceanic island nation of Palau and that their crew consisted of people from Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Egypt. The vessels will deliver the wheat to Egypt and Israel, according to Ukraine’s agricultural ministry. Kyiv unilaterally declared the maritime corridor - which hugs the western coast of the Black Sea - after Russia abandoned a UN-backed deal that facilitated grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
Moscow said parts of the deal allowing the export of its food and fertilisers had not been honoured and complained that Western sanctions were restricting its own agricultural exports.
Since then, Russia has threatened to treat civilian ships sailing to Ukraine as potential military targets.
Earlier this week, the UK accused Russia of targeting one such vessel with multiple cruise missiles as it rested in the Ukrainian port of Odesa recently. Ukraine is one of world’s biggest suppliers of crops such as sunflower oil, barley, maize and wheat.
When Russia invaded in February 2022, its navy blockaded the country’s Black Sea ports - trapping 20 million tonnes of grain which were meant for export. This caused world food prices to soar and threatened to create shortages in Middle Eastern and African countries, which import significant amounts of food from Ukraine.