A coastal safety boat moves near the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn from Ukraine, off the coast of north-west Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday. Photo by Gokhan Mert/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The first cargo ship loaded with grain to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded in late February completed inspection Wednesday in the Black Sea off the Turkish coast and has passed through the Bosphorus Strait en route to its final destination of Lebanon.
The joint inspection team of the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul departed the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel named Razoni carrying some 26,500 tons of corn after boarding the ship earlier Wednesday, Turkey's defense ministry said in a statement.
The Bosphorus Strait is an internationally important waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea and then the Mediterranean.
The ship had anchored off Turkey at the entrance of the strait at about 9 p.m. the night prior after having left Ukraine's Odessa port on Monday.
The ship's departure of Ukraine through the Russian blockade of the Black Sea came as a result of the July 21 agreement between the warring countries that was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.
Its voyage is seen as a victory in the effort to alleviate the deepening international food crisis. Some observers have said it may also represent the first step toward a cease-fire.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters during a press conference Tuesday that there will be further vessel departures from the port.
"We hope there will be some more outbound movement tomorrow," he said. "To state the obvious, this is delicate, complex and complicated, but there are other movements planned."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his nightly address Tuesday said now that one ship has left, the goal is for others to follow.
"Continuity and regularity is the necessary principle," he said. "All consumers of our agricultural products need it."
Zelensky has said 16 vessels loaded with foodstuffs are waiting to depart, with U.S. officials estimating some 20 million tons have been stored in silos in Ukraine amid the war.
Several officials, including the Ukrainian president, have accused Russia of purposely deepening the ongoing crisis by weaponizing food in order to demand political concessions.
"But when the world is united, when partners fulfill their commitments, the necessary result can be achieved," Zelensky said. "Let's see how the grain initiative will work in the coming days."
After the ship was cleared to continue on its journey Wednesday, Blinken said its departure raises hope that further grain stuck in Ukraine will soon alleviate the world's food insecurity crisis but it is only a first step.
"Russia must meet its commitments, including by facilitating unimpeded exports of agricultural products from Black Sea ports," he said in a statement. "As long as Russia continues its aggression, the Ukrainian people and the world's most vulnerable will continue to suffer its effects."