First ship to leave Ukraine approaching Syria

First ship to leave Ukraine approaching Syria

BEIRUT: The first ship to leave Ukraine under a United Nations-brokered deal to resume grain exports from the country two weeks ago was approaching the Syrian port of Tartous on Sunday, two shipping sources said.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni set sail from Ukraine's Odesa port on August 1 under the deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the UN and Turkey.

The cargo of 26,000 tons of corn had originally been destined for Lebanon, but has been suffering from a severe economic crisis that has resulted in food insecurity for half of its population.

The original buyer refused the delivery due to quality concerns and the ship sailed to Turkey, docking in Mersin on August 11.

When it set sail the following day, it did not keep its transponder on. Two shipping sources, one of them in Tartous, confirmed on Sunday that the ship was approaching the northwest Syrian port.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Lebanon had no immediate comment on the ship's destination.

It accused Syria of importing at least 150,000 tons of grain it said was stolen from Ukrainian warehouses after Russia's invasion in February.

In June Ukraine cut off diplomatic ties with Syria after Damascus recognised the independence of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

A UN official said that the UN ship MV Brave Commander will depart Ukraine for Africa in the coming days after it finishes loading more than 23,0000 tons of wheat in the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi.