The first ship carrying grain to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since the war with Russia began is making its way to Lebanon after passing inspection Wednesday, Turkish and Ukrainian officials said.
Officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations inspected the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which is carrying more than 26,000 tons of corn, when the vessel docked in Istanbul, Turkey’s defense ministry said on Twitter. The inspection is meant to ensure outbound vessels are only carrying grain or other food-related items and that inbound ships are not carrying weapons.
The Razoni departed from Odesa on Monday thanks to a July 22 deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey as part of an effort to ease a growing food crisis. The deal allows Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports for months because of a Russian blockade. Russia will be allowed to export grain and fertilizer.
The ship will now cross the 19-mile Bosporus Strait before sailing to Lebanon. Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure said in a statement 17 more vessels are awaiting permission to leave the country’s ports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address late Tuesday that resuming grain exports would limit Russia’s ability to pressure the West.
“They are losing one of the opportunities to terrorize the world,” he said.
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►After previously declining to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputed girlfriend, reportedly out of concern about escalating tensions, the Biden administration took that step Tuesday when it froze Alina Kabaeva’s visa. The Treasury Department said Kabaeva has “a close relationship to Putin.”
►Ukraine’s presidential office said Wednesday that Russian shelling killed at least four civilians in Donetsk province in 24 hours. Mandatory evacuation of the region has begun, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram, and the first evacuation train arrived in Kropyvnytskyi.
►Nearly 6.2 million Ukrainians refugees have been forced to move across Europe and another 6.3 million have been displaced within Ukraine, according to new data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
►Russia shelling damaged a pier, an industrial enterprise, residential buildings, a garage cooperative, a supermarket and a pharmacy in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv late Tuesday and early Wednesday, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.
Russia’s Supreme Court said Tuesday that Ukraine’s Azov regiment – which played a key role in defending the port city of Mariupol for weeks – would be declared a terrorist organization.
The ruling means that Azov soldiers being held prisoner by Russia and its separatist allies could face terrorism charges. In Russia, a terrorist organization leader could receive 15 to 20 years if convicted, and group members could get five to 10, according to Russian state media.
An estimated 1,000 members of the Azov regime have been held prisoner since mid-May after holding out in Mariupol’s steel mill for weeks and later surrendering. Russian authorities have opened criminal charges against many of them, and terrorism charges could lead to longer sentences and fewer rights.
In a statement, the Azov Regiment dismissed the ruling, accusing the Kremlin of “looking for new excuses and explanations for its war crimes.” It urged the U.S. and other countries to declare Russia a terrorist state.
Contributing: The Associated Press