Chris Lange, FISM News
The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain departed from the port of Odesa on the Black Sea Monday following a U.N.-negotiated deal to release massive stores of Ukrainian crops held up for months by Russian blockades. The Sierra-Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni is loaded with more than 26,000 tons of corn and is expected to reach Istanbul on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted a video of Razoni leaving its berth as it headed out to sea.
“The first grain ship since Russian aggression has left port,” Kubrakov said. “Thanks to the support of all our partner countries and the U.N. we were able to full implement the Agreement signed in Istanbul. It’s important for us to be one of the guarantors of food security.”
The first 🇺🇦 grain ship since #RussianAggression has left port. Thanks to the support of all our partner countries & @UN we were able to full implement the Agreement signed in Istanbul. It’s important for us to be one of the guarantors of 🌏 food security. pic.twitter.com/jOz3bdmdfB
— Oleksandr Kubrakov (@OlKubrakov) August 1, 2022
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the news of the cargo ship’s departure, saying that he is hopeful that more grain shipments will follow to “bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the ship’s successful departure “very positive news.”
“This is a good opportunity to test [the conditions of the deal] agreed during talks in Istanbul. Let us hope that all the parties involved will fulfill their commitments,” Peskov said Monday.
Donetsk evacuation orders
In other developments, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from the Donetsk region of the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine on Saturday. The announcement comes amidst fierce and bloody fighting in the region that shows no signs of slowing.
“The more people leave [the] Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
Zelenskyy also urged those from other areas of the Donbas to leave, saying it is for their own good.
“If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the combat zones in Donbas,” Zelenskyy pleaded. “Please convince them that it is necessary to leave.”
The area is almost entirely without gas or electricity, a problem that will exacerbate once winter comes.
As Russia slowly presses its advance in the east, Ukraine continues to launch counterattacks in the Russian-occupied south, vowing to reclaim territory. Ukrainian forces have successfully used long-awaited U.S.-supplied rocket launchers to strike Russian military infrastructure and bridges in southern Ukraine, forcing Russia to divert forces away from the Donbas to deal with the new threat.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continues to call on Washington to formally declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has so far held back from granting the request, though both the House and Senate support doing so.
In a statement from his presidential office Saturday, Zelenskyy said that “formal legal recognition of Russia as a terrorist state, in particular, recognition by the United States Department of State, is needed not as a political gesture, but as an effective defense of the free world.”
“This decision will automatically make it difficult for the terrorist state to exist,” he continued, “and will automatically cut various political and business ties that Russia would maintain otherwise.”