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Inspection team clears Ukraine grain ship to cross Bosphorus

After a team consisting of UN, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish personnel inspected the first grain-carrying ship on Wednesday that left Ukrainian ports in wartime, it cleared the vessel to cross Bosphorus.

Called Razoni, the ship had left Odesa on Monday carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn and then reached the straits of Bosphorus north of the Turkish capital of Istanbul on Tuesday night.

The sailing was enabled after Ankara and the UN brokered a grain and fertiliser export agreement between Moscow and Kyiv last month marking a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a drawn-out war of attrition. Under the agreement, the four parties are monitoring shipments and conducting inspections from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, which straddles the Bosphorus Strait that connects the Black Sea to world markets.

The inspection team reached the ship in two boats that had taken off from a small fishing port in Istanbul’s Rumeli Feneri. Two coast guard boats revolved around the ship and a helicopter hovered about.

Grain deal: Inspection team arrives and boards the bulker Razoni in the northern entrance anchorage of Bosphorus. #OATT

— Yörük Işık (@YorukIsik) August 3, 2022

Plans were in the making on Wednesday to step up outbound movement from Ukraine, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, adding that about 27 ships were covered by the export deal.

Turkey said on Tuesday that as many as three ships may leave Ukrainian ports daily instead of one per day.

Being one of the world’s top grain producers, Ukraine’s grain exports are indispensable to alleviating global food shortages and soaring prices triggered by the Russian invasion. Lebanon, importing most of its food, all of its fuel, and over 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, is looking forward to welcoming Razoni with the much-anticipated corn on board.

Syrian ship suspected of carrying stolen Ukrainian grain still in Lebanon

However, its Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, Ghassan Oueidate, on Tuesday lifted the seizure of a ship accused by Ukraine of transporting stolen flour and barley. The justice authorized it to set sail after finding that “no criminal offence had been committed.”

The prosecutor found that the cereals on board the ship belonged to a Syrian trader, who “presented himself for the investigation and showed documents proving that he was the owner,” of the load, a source from the court told AFP.

The ship, called Laodicea, however, still cannot depart owning to another seizure order issued on Monday by a judge in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where the ship is moored, the same source said. The second order, issued on Monday, is only valid for 72 hours, the judge who issued it told Reuters.

Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut did not comment immediately.

Ukraine previously said the ship is carrying some 10,000 tonnes of flour and barley looted by Russia from Ukrainian stores after it invaded the country in February.

To recall, Syria is Russia’s close ally that recognises the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

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