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A cargo ship loaded with grain has departed from the port of Odesa in Ukraine as part of an internationally brokered deal called the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The initiative aims to support significant volumes of exports from the ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

After inspection teams supervise the loading of grain at the ports, Ukrainian pilot vessels will lead the ships through the Black Sea.

A Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship, the Razoni, is said to be the first commercial vessel to leave a Ukrainian Black Sea port since Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine began in February.

The ship is carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn and will sail to the Mediterranean port of Tripoli in Lebanon. The initiative follows an agreement signed between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations (UN) to support the country’s agricultural exports.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that ensuring ‘existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative’.

He also called the move a ‘beacon of hope’ when it was signed in the Turkish city of Istanbul on 22 July.

Representatives from the three governments formed a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, under the guidance of the UN, to facilitate grain exports.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), an emergency food agency that procures grain and cereals from Ukraine, plans to purchase, load and ship an initial 30,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine on an UN-chartered ship.

Guterres further noted that the war ‘must end, and peace must be established, in line with the Charter of the United Nations and international law’.