Cargo ships reach Ukraine using new route after Russia’s exit from grain deal

Russian warned it would treat vessels headed to Ukrainian ports as military targets

Ukraine grain ship Palau-flagged bulk carrier Aroyat and general cargo vessel Resilient Africa arrive to the sea port of Chornomorsk for loading with grain, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near Odesa | Reuters

Two cargo ships reached Ukraine on Saturday using a new route, after Russia’s exit from the Black Sea grain deal, brokered by Turkey and the UN.

According to reports, the cargo ships reached the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk using a temporary corridor established by the war-torn country after Russia withdrew from the deal. “The two ships will be delivering some 20,000 tons of wheat to countries in Africa and Asia,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, said in an online statement.

Two Palau-flagged bulk carriers, Aroyat and Resilient Africa, docked Saturday at the sea port of Chornomorsk in the southern Odesa region, according to an online statement by the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. The vessels are the first civilian cargo ships to reach one of the Odesa ports since Russia exited the grain deal. According to reports, the corridor was used earlier only by ships departing from Ukraine.

For months, Ukraine, whose economy is heavily dependent on farming, was able to safely export its grain from Black Sea ports under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to ensure safe shipments. But Russia withdrew from the deal on July 17, with Kremlin officials arguing their demands for the facilitation of Russian food and fertiliser shipments had not been met.

Following the withdrawal, the Russian Defence Ministry said it would regard any vessels in the Black Sea that are headed to Ukrainian ports as military targets.

Since then, Kyiv has sought to reroute transport through the Danube River, and road and rail links into Europe. But transport costs that way are much higher. Some European countries have balked at the consequential local grain prices, and the Danube ports can't handle the same volume as seaports.

The interim corridor in the Black Sea, which Kyiv has asked the International Maritime Organisation to ratify, was opened on August 10 as United States and Ukrainian officials warned of possible Russian attacks on civilian vessels. Sea mines also make the voyage risky, and ship insurance costs are likely to be high for operators.

Ukrainian officials said the corridor will be primarily used to evacuate ships stuck in the Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi since the war broke out. Kubrakov said Saturday that five vessels have since used the corridor to leave the Ukrainian ports.

After tearing up the grain deal, Russia intensified attacks on the southern Odesa region, targeting its port infrastructure and grain silos with missiles and drones.

On Sunday, Ukraine's Air Force Command reported another attack overnight in which the Odesa region was the main target. Russian forces fired 10 cruise missiles and six Iranian-made Shahed drones, the statement said. All drones and six missiles were downed, while the rest hit an agricultural facility in the Odesa region.

(With PTI inputs.)

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