A Ukrainian official said Monday that Kyiv hopes it can begin shipping grain out of its Black Sea ports this week under a UN-brokered deal that was signed in Turkey this past Friday.
“We believe that over the next 24 hours we will be ready to work to resume exports from our ports. We are talking about the port of Chornomorsk. It will be the first, then there will be Odesa, then the port of Pivdeny,” said Ukrainian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov.
Vaskov said grain should be moving out of all of Ukraine’s ports within two weeks. “In the next two weeks, we will be technically ready to carry out grain exports from all Ukrainian ports,” he said. Under the deal, Ukraine will escort ships carrying grain and fertilizer out of its heavily mined ports, and Russia won’t attack the area as shipments are moving.
A UN official said that grain shipments could start within a few days. “We expect that the first ship may move within a few days,” said deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq.
The agreement established a coordination center in Istanbul that will oversee grain shipments as they travel out of Ukraine and leave the Black Sea through the Bosphorus Strait.
“The Joint Coordination Center will be liaising with the shipping industry and publishing detailed procedures for ships in the very near future,” Haq said. Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN will all have representatives at the coordination center, which will also oversee the inspection of the ships leaving Ukrainian ports.
Russian strikes on the port of Odesa on Saturday raised doubts about the implementation of the grain deal. But Ukrainian officials appear to still be ready to cooperate on the agreement, and Russia said the Odesa strikes shouldn’t impact the grain shipments.
If the deal is implemented, it could unlock an estimated 22 million tons of grain that have been stuck in Ukraine since the war started.