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Grain shipments depart from Ukraine despite Russian blockade threat

( NYPost )

Ukrainian grain shipments continued on Monday — despite Russia’s announcement over the weekend that it was pulling out of a deal to secure commercial shipping in the Black Sea after its fleet there came under attack.

“Today 12 ships left Ukrainian ports. UN and Turkish delegations provide 10 inspection teams to inspect 40 ships, aiming to fulfill the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, tweeted Monday, referencing the formal name of the deal between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.

“This inspection plan has been accepted by the Ukrainian delegation. The Russian delegation has been informed,” he added.

The announcement came after Russia announced Sunday it was pulling out of a July deal to allow the passage of grain shipments from Ukrainian ports, a move Kyiv said put 218 ships in limbo.

Among them was the Ikaria Angel, a UN-chartered freighter carrying 40,000 tons of grain bound for Ethiopia. Kubrakov said the ship had disembarked Monday with its cargo.

The resumption of shipments indicated that Moscow had stopped short of reinstating the blockade that kept a stranglehold on world food supplies for much of the first half of this year.

Ukraine is among the world’s largest exporters of grain — specifically wheat and sunflower oil. July’s agreement to secure shipping lanes through the war zone was a UN-brokered solution to a brewing global food crisis.

Since the deal was put in place, 397 ships have safely left Ukraine, exporting some 9 million tons of grain from the war-torn nation.

Ship tracking services showed the Ikaria Angel off the Ukrainian coast Monday, on course for the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey.

But despite the apparent safe passage of the Ikaria Angel and the other ships to depart Ukrainian ports Monday, the future of the grain deal was uncertain.

Insurers at Lloyds of London — a marketplace for insuring ships and cargo — indicated that grain shipments in the Black Sea would be difficult to underwrite without more clarity regarding Russia’s intentions.

“Insurers tell us their premiums may leap by a quarter or a half for shipping crossing the Black Sea,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the body’s Security Council.

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