First grain shipments to leave Ukraine ‘this week’: minister

This photograph taken on June 14, 2022, shows wheat grain ears on a field near Izmail, in the Odessa region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – In the Ukrainian port of Izmail, on the Danube river that marks the border with Romania, rows of trucks filled with grain stand in line. (Photo by Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP)

Kyiv, Ukraine | AFP

Kyiv expects the first grain deliveries under a UN-brokered deal to leave Ukrainian ports “this week”, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said Monday, despite Russian strikes on Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa.

“We expect the agreement to start working in the coming days,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, who led Ukraine’s delegation at grain talks in Turkey, told a press conference.

“We are preparing for everything to start this week,” he added.

Kubrakov also highlighted the importance of security following a strike on the port of Odessa, one of the three export hubs designated in the agreement.

“Our position is very simple. We signed an agreement with the UN and Turkey. If the sides guarantee security, the agreement will work. If they do not, it will not work,” Kubrakov said.

Russia and Ukraine signed agreements on Black Sea grain exports in Istanbul on Friday, with Turkey and the UN as co-guarantors.

Both countries are major exporters of agricultural products, but Moscow’s invasion has severely disrupted Ukrainian wheat exports as the fighting damaged harvests and left ports blocked and mined.

Kubrakov added that de-mining will take place “exclusively” in the shipping lanes required for grain exports, while Ukrainian ships will accompany the departing convoys that will transport not only grain but also fertiliser.

Deputy infrastructure minister Yuri Vaskov told the press conference that the southeastern port of Chornomorsk will be “the first” used for grain deliveries, followed by the port of Odessa in the south and then Pivdennyi in the southeast.

“In the next two weeks, we will be technically ready to carry out grain exports from all Ukrainian ports,” Vaskov added.