Ukrainian ship carrying grain sails from Odessa, testing Russian threat


KYIV — Kyiv officials said a first ship carrying Ukrainian agricultural cargo set sail Wednesday from the southern port of Odessa — despite threats by Russia to forcibly stop vessels in the Black Sea after Moscow unilaterally terminated a U.N.-sponsored agreement allowing safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov said the container ship Joseph Schulte, flying a Hong Kong flag, left the port “and is proceeding through a temporary corridor established for civilian vessels” on its way to the Bosporus Strait.

Kubrakov, posting on Facebook, said the ship was “carrying more than 30,000 tons of cargo, including food products” and had been in the Odessa port since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, nearly 18 months ago.

The announcement came as Russian forces continued their ferocious barrage of Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure, apparently intent on destroying the country’s ability to ship to global markets and crippling a key sector of its economy.

On Wednesday, the head of the Odessa regional administration, Oleh Kiper, said two waves of self-destructing drones damaged “warehouses and granaries” in a port on the Danube River, which Ukraine established as an alternative route to shipping from ports directly on the Black Sea.

“The main goal [of the attacks] is port and grain infrastructure in the south of the region,” Kiper wrote on Telegram.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said the assault hit the Danube port of Reni, and he posted photos of destroyed storage facilities. There were no casualties, Yermak said.

Last month, Russia withdrew from the U.N.-brokered agreement to allow Ukrainian grain shipments safe passage, and warned that all ships traveling in the Black Sea from Ukrainian ports would be considered to be potentially carrying military cargo.

Kyiv responded with its own announcement that all ships traveling to Russian Black Sea ports would also be regarded as potentially transporting military arms and equipment.

Last week, Ukraine’s navy announced on its Facebook page that “temporary corridors” had been established for “merchant vessels going to and from Ukrainian ports.”

“At the same time, it is reported that there is a military threat and mine danger from the Russian Federation along all routes,” the statement said, without providing any details about the corridors’ locations.

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Ukraine’s military said Wednesday that it had liberated the village of Urozhaine, a small settlement in the eastern Donetsk region.

Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Moscow-aligned Vostok Battalion in Russian-occupied Donetsk, said on Telegram that Ukrainian forces captured the village, claiming that the Ukrainians paid a high price in casualties.

“Not a single house surrendered to us without a fight,” Khodakovsky wrote, adding that his troops did not wait for “promised reinforcements, which were supposed to arrive any day.”

The reports could not be independently confirmed, but if they are accurate, the recapture of Urozhaine would highlight the incremental pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Urozhaine is adjacent to Staromaiorske, which Ukrainian forces retook at the end of July.

On Wednesday, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chief of its security council, said the Kremlin should gain control of Kyiv, after a top NATO official made controversial remarks that Ukraine could cede territory to Russia in exchange for membership in the alliance.

Stian Jenssen, chief of staff to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said during a panel discussion Tuesday in Norway that such a trade-off could be part of a solution to end the war, though he added that it was up to Kyiv officials “to decide when and on what terms they want to negotiate.”

Medvedev called the idea “curious” and suggested that Ukraine would have to give up most of its territory, with the exception of western Ukraine.

“To enter the bloc, the Kyiv authorities will have to give up even Kyiv itself, the capital of Ancient Rus,” Medvedev said, referring to a political entity that existed about a thousand years ago and covered portions of today’s Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. “They will have to move the capital to Lviv,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials claim that Rus was the predecessor to today’s Russia and have used this as one of their justifications for their invasion of Ukraine and attempts to seize its territory.

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Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak rejected Jenssen’s remarks, calling the suggestion “ridiculous.”

“That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations,” Podolyak wrote on social media.

“Attempts to preserve the world order and establish a ‘bad peace’ through, let’s be honest, Putin’s triumph will not bring peace to the world, but will bring both dishonor and war,” Podolyak said.

On Wednesday, Jenssen clarified his statements, saying in an interview that what he said was “a mistake” and that he “shouldn’t have said it that way.”

“If, and I emphasize if, you get to the point where you can negotiate,” Jenssen said, the military situation on the ground “will be absolutely central.” He did not mention the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, however.


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