The first ship carrying grain has left a Ukrainian port under a landmark deal with Russia.

Turkish and Ukrainian officials say the ship left the southern port of Odesa early on Monday morning local time.

Russia has been blockading Ukrainian ports since February, but the two sides agreed a deal to resume shipments.

It is hoped the deal will ease the global food crisis and lower the price of grain.

In a statement issued ahead of the ship’s departure, Turkey said the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel would dock in Lebanon, adding that further shipments were planned over the coming weeks.

The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul set up under the deal said the ship was carrying some 26,000 tonnes of corn and was expected to arrive in Turkish waters for inspection on Tuesday.

“Today Ukraine, together with partners, takes another step to prevent world hunger,” Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov wrote on Facebook.

“Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year.”

Mr Kubrakov added that 16 other ships were waiting to depart in the ports of Odesa Region in the coming weeks.

Last month’s deal – brokered by the UN and Turkey – took two months to reach and is set to last for 120 days. It can be renewed if both parties agree.

The blockade of Ukraine’s grain has caused a global food crisis with wheat-based products like bread and pasta becoming more expensive, and cooking oils and fertiliser also increasing in price.

Under the terms of the deal, Russia has agreed not to target ports while shipments are in transit and Ukraine has agreed that its naval vessels will guide cargo ships through waters that have been mined.

Turkey – supported by the United Nations – will inspect ships, to allay Russian fears of weapons smuggling.

Three ports in southern Ukraine – Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny – are expected to be the focal point of the exports.

But the deal was thrown into chaos less than 24 hours after it was announced that Russia had launched two missiles at Odesa port.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the strike showed that Moscow could not be trusted to stick to the deal.

Source: BBC