ANKARA — The first grain ship to leave a Ukrainian port after Russia's withdrawal from a key Black Sea deal reached Turkey’s Bosporus Strait safely on Thursday as Ankara remained reluctant to pursue alternative agreements excluding Moscow.
According to the Marine Traffic website, the Palau-flagged cargo ship Resilient Africa reached Turkey’s Bosporus Strait linking the Black and Mediterranean seas at around 16:20 p.m. local time. It departed from Ukraine’s Odesa port in the Black Sea, where clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces have escalated after Russia refused to extend the grain deal that had allowed safe travel for cargo vessels to and from Ukraine.
Kyiv announced the ship's departure from the port on Wednesday. Ukraine’s Development and Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the vessel was carrying more than 3,000 tons of wheat.
“This is one of two vessels that entered the port of Chornomorsk last week through a temporary corridor for civilian vessels established by the Ukrainian Navy,” he wrote on Twitter.
He added that another wheat-laden ship had docked in Odesa and was waiting to sail for Egypt.
After the grain deal expired on July 17 and Moscow declined to renew it, Russian forces began to attack Ukrainian grain storage facilities and ports in the Black Sea, imposing a blockade on ships traveling to and from the Ukrainian Black Sea coast.
Ukraine, which is known as the world's bread basket, is among the top 10 biggest suppliers of the world’s barley, maize and wheat, according to the European Union data. While Moscow’s withdrawal from the deal led to a spike in global grain prices, Ukraine announced its intention to set up an alternative route for its grain shipments. Washington and Kyiv have reportedly been in contact with Ankara on the route.
Turkey, however, which helped broker the deal last year, has been signaling reluctance to US and Ukraine-led efforts to set up an alternative corridor. Turkey’s Defense Ministry reiterated the country’s position on Thursday, saying that Ankara was still favoring reviving the original deal, which involved Russia. “There is no new offer on our table,” a senior ministry official said in response to a question about Ukraine's proposal to set up a grain corridor without Russian participation.
The Black Sea grain deal was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 after the Russian invasion blocked Ukrainian food exports from reaching world markets. Some 40 countries rely on grain exports from Ukraine.