ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkey’s Defense Ministry says the first grain ship carrying Ukrainian corn is preparing to cross the Bosphorus Strait from Istanbul and travel to its final destination, Lebanon.
The ministry said an inspection team has completed its review aboard the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni. The delegation included officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations. The Razoni is anchored off the coast of Istanbul in the Black Sea near the mouth of the Bosphorus. The Razoni sounded her horn as the inspection teams abandoned ship.
The Razoni, which the United Nations says is carrying 26,527 tons of corn, set sail Monday from Odessa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
Images tweeted by the Department of Defense showed an inspector reaching into an open bin and touching the grain.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
ISTANBUL (AP) – Inspectors on Wednesday boarded the first cargo ship to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor after the ship anchored off Istanbul.
Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials should verify that the grain shipment is compliant an agreement signed last month Moscow and Kyiv to unblock Ukraine’s agricultural exports and alleviate the global food crisis.
The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, carrying 26,527 tons of corn according to the United Nations, set sail on Monday from Odessa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. His final destination is Lebanon.
The ship was anchored Wednesday near the mouth of the Bosphorus, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and further to the Aegean Sea.
Inspectors, some with white helmets, drove to the ship in two boats in the rain, escorted by the Turkish Coast Guard. Turkish media said there were about 20 inspectors.
The controls are aimed at ensuring that incoming ships have no weapons on board and outgoing ships only carry grain, fertilizer or similar foodstuffs and no other goods.
More ships from Ukraine are expected to depart in the coming days, raising hopes that global food shortages can be alleviated. About 27 ships have been waiting in three Ukrainian ports with cargo and signed contracts, according to UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
An estimated 20 million tons of grain have been stuck in Ukraine since the war began. The grain release agreement brokered by the United Nations last month calls for the establishment of safe corridors through the mined waters outside of Ukrainian ports.
Delays in shipments due to war have exacerbated rising food prices around the world and threatened hunger and political instability in developing countries.
Most of the grain stuck in Ukraine is used to feed livestock, according to David Laborde, an expert at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. Only 6 million tons is wheat, and only half of that is for human consumption, Laborde said. He said the Razoni was loaded with chicken feed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says resuming grain exports will limit Russian authorities’ ability to extort concessions from the West. “You are losing one of the opportunities to terrorize the world,” he said in his late-night video address late Tuesday.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has it too interrupted power supply in Western Europe, with Moscow drastically cutting broadcasts over fears it may not be able to broadcast at all.
Meanwhile, the UN nuclear chief warned that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine is “completely out of control” and urgent steps are needed to avoid a nuclear accident.
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that the situation at the Zaporizhia plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, which Russian troops captured in early March shortly after their February 24 invasion of Ukraine, is becoming more dangerous.
“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated,” he said in the attachment. “What is at stake is extremely serious and extremely serious and dangerous.”
He issued an urgent request to Russia and Ukraine to quickly allow experts to visit the vast complex.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, hitting it with shells twice in the last 24 hours – on Tuesday around 9 p.m. and on Wednesday at 5 a.m., Mykolaiv region governor Vitaliy Kim reported.
The shelling damaged a pier, an industrial establishment, residential buildings, a garage cooperative, a supermarket and a pharmacy, Kim said. It was initially unclear whether there were injuries.
Mykolayiv is a southern port city, roughly on a par with Odessa, on the Black Sea. The Russians said in April that they wanted to control not only eastern but also southern Ukraine. Taking over Odessa and Mykolayiv in the south will give them control of the entire Black Sea coast and a land corridor to Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region.
Amid the relentless onslaught of Moscow forces, Zelenskyy issued an order to all who were in the country embattled Donetsk region for evacuation as soon as possible.
The forced evacuation effort aims to move 200,000 to 220,000 people out of the eastern province by the fall, officials say.
Robert Badendieck and Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine