By Vatican News staff reporter
"A day of relief for the world": That’s how Ukraine’s foreign minister described the departure of a ship carrying grain that left the Ukrainian port of Odesa for Lebanon on Monday under a safe passage agreement.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the departure of the ship and praised Turkey for its role in securing the deal.
It was the first time a ship with this type of cargo on board has set sail since the Russian invasion blocked shipping through the Black Sea five months ago.
The departure was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain-and-fertiliser export agreement between Russia and Ukraine last month.
The deal aims to allow safe passage for grain shipments in and out of the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny.
Turkey’s Defence Minister said the ship, called the Razoni, would anchor in the Bosphorus off Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon. Then it will be inspected by a joint team of Russian, Ukrainian, United Nations and Turkish representatives.
Ukrainian presidential officials have said 17 ships are docked in Black Sea ports with almost 600,000 tonnes of cargo, mostly grain.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has led to a worldwide food and energy crisis and the United Nations has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat exports. But Western sanctions on Russia and fighting along Ukraine's eastern seaboard have prevented grain ships safely leaving ports.
As the fighting in Ukraine continues, as many as 811 million people around the world are facing extreme hunger - an increase of roughly 60 million people in just three years.
Russia has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.
Aid agencies including the UK based Catholic overseas development agency CAFOD have welcomed the grain deal but is calling for a reform of the food system, warning that the blockade could happen all over again.