The first-ever cargo vessel to depart from a port of Ukraine under Russia’s threat reached Turkish waters on Thursday.
Per the official website of Vessel Finder, which keeps track of marine traffic, the Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte reached Turkey’s waters safely on Thursday evening (according to local time).
It set sail from Ukraine’s port of Odesa. Russia’s attacks have reportedly increased since Moscow refused to extend the Black Sea grain agreement that assured safe travel for any civilian vessel from and to Ukrainian ports.
On Wednesday, Kyiv declared the vessel’s departure from the port. Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s Development and Infrastructure Minister, mentioned that the ship was trapped in Odesa for more than a year and loaded with over 30,000 tons of cargo.
The vessel is proceeding via a corridor established exclusively for civilian ships to and from the Black Sea ports of Ukraine, he posted on Twitter.
The first civilian vessel has sailed via Ukraine’s humanitarian corridor, sailing from the port of Odesa, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s President, also tweeted on Wednesday, referring to the departure as a critical step toward restoring the freedom of navigation once again in the Black Sea.
Following Moscow’s refusal to extend the Black Sea grain deal that expired on 17 July, Ukraine declared its intention to set up an alternative corridor for the safe passage of all civilian vessels. Following the declaration, Russia further ramped up attacks on Ukraine’s grain storage ports and other facilities, placing a de-facto blockade on ships travelling to and from Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
In a tweet after the vessel departs from Odessa, Vedant Patel, the US State Department Spokesman, lashed out at Russia’s attacks as intentional. Russia is continuing to target food silos intentionally in Ukraine — destroying food and the means to produce it. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s actions confirm what they have been saying: Putin doesn’t care about global food security, Patel posted on Twitter on Thursday.
Per data on Vessel Finder, the vessel sailed via Bulgarian and Romanian waters to reach the destination, Turkey’s northwestern port of Ambarli.
Kubrakov mentioned on Thursday that the channel followed by the Joseph Schulte would be used to evacuate vessels trapped at ports when the full-blown invasion of Russia took place.
Earlier Thursday, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that the vessel could cross the Turkish straits without facing problems.
Other nations are also working on alternative channels. We are following the developments closely, a high-level Turkish Defense Ministry official informed Turkish media.
The Wall Street Journal further reported earlier in the week that Washington was in discussion with Ankara and Kyiv to discuss some alternative channels for grain and other foodstuff shipments.
However, the Turkish Defense Ministry official said on Thursday that Ankara was still emphasizing its efforts to revive the initial deal.
Amid rising tensions in the region, Russia’s armed forces raided a cargo carrier that was known to be owned by a Turkish citizen off the northwest coast of
Turkey, in international waters on Sunday, in a move Moscow referred to as an “inspection.”
The Russian Defense Ministry released footage from the raid earlier in the week.
The Turkish presidency’s press office mentioned that on Thursday, after the incident, Ankara warned Moscow against actions that would further escalate the situation in the Black Sea. The incident occurred when Turkey tried convincing Russia to return to the UN-brokered grain deal.
Turkey and the UN broke the Black Sea grain deal in 2022 after Russia’s war on Ukraine blocked Ukraine’s food exports, especially its grain, from reaching markets worldwide.
About 40 nations depend on grain exports from Ukraine, known as the world’s bread basket. Global grain rates have spiked since last month when Russia denied extending the deal.
References: VOA News, Al- MONITER, WION
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