Sixteen ships loaded with grain ready to the Ukrainian Odessa. to leave


Ships are loaded and ready to leave Odessa as Moscow and Kiev blame an attack that killed Ukrainian POWs.

Sixteen ships loaded with grain were set to leave the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, as tensions rise over a rocket attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday that the ships’ departure was imminent.

John Hendren of Al Jazeera, reporting from Odessa, said 25 million tons of grain would be shipped to Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world as part of a UN-backed grain export agreement signed between Moscow and Kiev in July. signed. 22,

“They have mapped out a safe channel for those ships to leave Ukraine,” Hendren said, adding:

Zelenskyy visited the Chernomorsk port in the Odessa region on Friday to see crews preparing for grain exports.

“The first ship, the first ship to be loaded since the beginning of the war,” Zelenskyy told reporters.

Despite the Ukrainian leader’s words of hope, no ships have left Ukrainian ports yet.

“One of the problems they face is that those waters are being mined and people have been injured and killed,” Hendren said.

Navigating the ships also “requires a degree of trust between warring nations,” he added, which was further undermined Friday by an attack on a pre-trial detention center in Olenivka, in the separatist-controlled region of Donetsk.

Russia accused Kiev of hitting the prison with a US-made HIMARS missile system, killing dozens of inmates, including some whom Kiev considered war heroes for defending Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.

Ukrainian forces have denied carrying out the attack, saying they are avoiding hitting civilian infrastructure in accordance with international law.

“This is a deliberate war crime on the part of Russia, a deliberate murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelenskyy said.

Hendren said the latest report indicates 50 detainees have been killed, up from 40 reported Friday.

“Both sides have called for an international investigation to determine what caused the explosion,” the Al Jazeera correspondent added. “One of the things they will look at is if there was an external strike or if it was an internal attack – that’s what the Ukrainian side is claiming.”

The tensions could hamper the effort to export about four to five large bulk carriers a day to transport grain from ports to millions of people in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, who are already battling food shortages and, in some cases, famine.

UN agencies like the World Food Program have already agreed to charter much of the grain for urgent humanitarian needs.

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