KYIV (Reuters) – Two cargo ships were heading to Ukrainian ports on Saturday, the first to use a temporary corridor to sail to Black Sea ports and load grain for African and Asian markets, a senior Ukrainian government official said to Reuters.

Last month, Ukraine announced the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to free ships blocked in its ports since the start of the war in February 2022, and to circumvent a de facto blockade after Russia abandoned a deal allowing Kyiv to export grain.

Five ships have so far left the port of Odessa using the corridor, which runs along the western coast of the Black Sea near Romania and Bulgaria.

Ukraine also wants to use this corridor for its food exports, of which the country is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters.

Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said two bulk carriers, “Resilient Africa” ​​and “Aroyat”, were already en route in the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports to load almost 20,000 tonnes of wheat bound for Africa and Asia.

Shipping data shows that both ships are following routes in the northern Black Sea.

The shipments are a test of Ukraine’s ability to reopen sea lanes at a time when Russia is trying to reimpose its de facto blockade, after abandoning the grain deal in July. Moscow has launched frequent drone and missile attacks against Ukraine’s grain export infrastructure.

This week, Ukraine launched several drone and missile attacks against the Russian Black Sea Fleet in and around the Crimean Peninsula, annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Olena Harmash, Benjamin Mallet)

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