Istanbul clears Ukrainian grain ship to head on to Lebanon

Istanbul has successfully completed inspections on the first ship loaded with Ukrainian grain for export since Russia’s invasion started in February, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

The vessel Razoni will shortly sail onward through Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait to its final destination Lebanon, the ministry said on Twitter.

It shared images of experts, wearing life jackets and white helmets, boarding the vessel at the strait’s Black Sea entrance and inspecting the cargo and documents, dpa news agency reported.

The inspection by representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations took approximately an hour.

The team is responsible for ensuring that the ship does not carry any unauthorised cargo, such as weapons.

The Razoni had left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Monday carrying 26,000 tons of corn.

More than 20 million tons of grain from last year’s harvest are still awaiting export, according to data from Ukraine. The food is urgently needed on the world market – especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The UN recently warned of the biggest famine in decades.

Under a deal agreed on July 22 to lift Russia’s months-long blockade of the ports, Ukraine pledged to guide the ships through waters that have been mined and Russia promised to not target the ships and certain port infrastructure.

The deal’s brokers – the UN and Turkey – said they will help safely coordinate the exports and monitor the shipments to make sure the vessels are not smuggling weapons into the war zone.

A joint coordination centre has been opened in Istanbul and is staffed by the four parties.

On the ground in Ukraine, a British intelligence update said on Wednesday that Ukrainian counter-attacks in the south-eastern Kherson region are causing increasing problems for Russia.

A Ukrainian attack on a Russian munitions train has temporarily disrupted a supply route from the occupied Crimean peninsula, according to the daily update by the British Ministry of Defence.

While the Russians could repair this route within a few days, it would remain a weak point.

The Antonivka bridge, damaged by Ukrainian missiles, also makes it difficult for Moscow to supply its occupying army west of the Dnipro river. The Russians would almost certainly have to use a recently established ferry route for civilians to bring their troops and supplies across the river.

The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson has recently gained momentum, according to Western security circles. Particularly with the help of the US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, it is believed that losses are being inflicted on the attackers and logistical problems created.

As the fierce fighting continues, the British intelligence services expect more and more people to flee the Kherson region in the near future. This is expected to increase pressure on traffic and transport routes and may result in restrictions.

The British government has regularly published intelligence information on the course of the Russian war on Ukraine since it began. Moscow accuses London of a targeted disinformation campaign.

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