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First Grain Ship Leaves Ukraine Since Start of Russian Invasion

Wheat fields in midsummer in Ukraine, Oblast Lviv in 2012. Raimond Spekking Photo

The first grain ship left Ukraine Monday, departing through Odesa’s port, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

The ship was carrying approximately 26,000 metric tons of corn, according to Kirby. This is the first ship able to leave Ukraine under a deal between Ukraine and Russia, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations. In order for the ship to be able to leave Odesa’s port, the U.N. needed a clear water path, USNI News previously reported.

The ship in question, Razoni, is flying under the flag of Sierra Leone, according to Reuters. It is bound for Lebanon and expected to sail through the Bosphorus Strait on Tuesday.

Razoni was in Odesa already, a crew member told Reuters. It’s not clear how long Razoni was in Odesa, but the crew member described hearing alarms go off around the port and not being able to leave the ship in the war’s early days.

Ukraine, which is one of the largest grain exporters, along with Russia, has been unable to export most of that crop since Moscow invaded in February. This has led to concerns about potential food shortages, as Ukrainian grain tends to go to lower income countries, USNI News previously reported.

The United States will be watching the ability for grain ships to leave, Kirby said.

“Russia has, of course, weaponized food, and has effectively blockaded Ukraine’s ports since the beginning of this crisis,” Kirby said. “And we urge Russia to meet its commitments under this new arrangement, including by facilitating unimpeded exports of agricultural products from Black Sea ports in order to ease the food insecure around the world.”

The United States also announced another round of assistance for Ukraine Monday.

The U.S. will send $550 million in assistance, the Pentagon announced. The most recent assistance includes 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition and more ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).