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Inspectors on Wednesday allowed the first ship loaded with Ukrainian food supplies to leave the Black Sea under a UN brokered deal and head for Lebanon as the world awaits urgently needed food supplies.
The shipment is the first of its kind to leave Ukraine since the war started in February following an agreement last month by Kyiv, Moscow, the U.N. and Turkey in an attempt to address the global food crisis.
Authorities said Wednesday that 17 other vessels were also already loaded up with food supplies and awaiting inspection, but that there was no word yet on when they may pass through the Black Sea for Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said, “26,000 metric tons of corn” had passed muster after a joint civilian inspection team spent three hours checking the ship’s crew and cargo aboard the Razoni.
“We will monitor every ship to make sure Russia lives up to its commitments,” Brink added.
The Razoni, sailing under Sierra Leone flags, first left Odesa’s port Monday but no other ships are believed to have left any Ukrainian ports in the last 48 hours.
In the lead up to the war, Ukraine was a major supplier for the world’s grain products and officials have warned for months that millions of tons of grain, corn and wheat products remain holed up in Ukrainian storage containers.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Razoni’s journey a “significant step” but officials have not detailed why no other ships have left Ukraine this week.
Under the brokered deal – which is set to last for 120 days – the ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny were permitted to export food products and Russia agreed not to strike Ukrainian naval vessels or port infrastructure.
Despite the July 22 agreement, Russia launched a series of missile strikes at Ukraine’s coastline, including Odesa, one day after the deal was reached.
Russia claimed it was not responsible for the strikes.
Inspectors on Wednesday said they “gained valuable information” from the Razoni’s crew as they prepared for their maritime voyage to Tripoli, Lebanon.
The Joint Coordination Center said it is “fine-tuning procedures” as Ukrainians await the green light for the next vessel stocked with food products to depart.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.