Ukraine is defying Russia’s de-facto blockade of its Black Sea ports by sending empty ships to collect grain for the first time since a safe-passage deal collapsed almost two months ago.
Two ships “confirmed their readiness to use the route to the port of Chornomorsk to load almost 20,000 tons of wheat for Africa and Asia,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on social media. The ships carry the flags of Palau and crewmembers are from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Ukraine.
Both vessels were at the port of Chornomorsk as of Saturday evening, according to ship tracking data.
Russia’s exit from the UN and Turkey-brokered Black Sea grain deal in July forced Ukraine to use more complicated and expensive routes to ship its harvest abroad. While grain has been redirected via rail, river and road routes, Russia has repeatedly targeted key river ports on the Danube with drone attacks.
The ships’ passage to Ukraine is fraught with risks as Russia has said it would treat any ships headed to Ukraine’s ports as potential carriers of weapons. In August, Russia’s navy opened fire on a cargo vessel to force it to stop for checks.
Five ships, including container and bulk vessels, have used the new corridor supervised by Ukrainian navy and left the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi, where they had been stuck since Russia’s invasion started in February 2022. Bloomberg News