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First grain shipment to leave Ukraine under deal with Russia delayed in the Med

A boat with Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials heads to the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, to check if the grain shipment is in accordance with a crucial agreement signed last month by Moscow and Kyiv, at an inspection area in the Black Sea off the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. The cargo ship Razoni, loaded up with 26,000 tons of corn, set sail from Ukraine’s Odesa on Monday, enroute to final destination, Lebanon.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A boat with Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials heads to the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, to check if the grain shipment is in accordance with a crucial agreement signed last month by Moscow and Kyiv, at an inspection area in the Black Sea off the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. The cargo ship Razoni, loaded up with 26,000 tons of corn, set sail from Ukraine’s Odesa on Monday, enroute to final destination, Lebanon.(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The scheduled arrival of the first grain ship to leave Ukraine and cross the Black Sea under a wartime deal has been delayed, a Lebanese cabinet minister and the Ukrainian embassy said.

The cause of the delay was not immediately clear and Marine Traffic, which monitors the locations of ships at sea, showed the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni at anchor in the Mediterranean Sea near Turkey.

Lebanon’s transportation minister, Ali Hamie, tweeted the ship “that was supposed, according to what was rumored, to reach Tripoli port in Lebanon” had changed its status.

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The Razoni had earlier crosses the Bosphorus Strait at Istanbul, Turkey (Khalil Hamra/AP)

The ship left Odesa last Monday carrying Ukrainian corn and later passed inspection in Turkey. It was supposed to arrive in the northern port of Tripoli at about 10am on Sunday.

According to Marine Traffic, the ship changed its status on Saturday to “order”, meaning it was waiting for someone to buy the corn.

The Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said the arrival of the ship has been postponed, adding that an “update for the ceremony will be sent later when we get information about exact day and time of the arrival of the ship”.

The shipment is due at a time when the tiny Mediterranean nation is suffering from a food security crisis, with soaring inflation, wheat shortages and bread lines. The ship is carrying 26,000 tons of corn for chicken feed.

The passage of the vessel was the first under a breakthrough deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine. The four sides signed deals last month to create safe Black Sea shipping corridors to export Ukraine’s desperately needed agricultural products as Russia’s war upon its neighbour grinds on.

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A boat with Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials checked the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni last week (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in its modern history that began in late 2019 has left three-quarters of its population living in poverty while the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value.

The economic meltdown rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement was made worse by a massive blast in August 2020 that destroyed Beirut’s port and the country’s main grain silos inside the sprawling facility.

Lebanese officials said last week that the Razoni was supposed to leave Ukraine and head to Lebanon on February 24 but the departure was delayed by the war that broke out days later.

On Friday, three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn left Ukrainian ports and travelled through mined waters towards inspection of their delayed cargo, a sign that the international deal to export grain held up since Russia invaded Ukraine was slowly progressing.

Four more ships carrying agricultural cargo held up by the war in Ukraine received authorisation on Sunday to leave the Black Sea coast, and are expected to depart Chornomorsk and Odesa on Monday.