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First ship loaded with Ukrainian grain leaves Romania

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A ship loaded with Ukrainian corn left a Romanian Black Sea port on Friday, allowing Kyiv to dodge a Russian blockade of its key grain exports.

Romania made the port of Constanta available to Ukraine after the war-torn country’s ports were effectively cut off from the world in the wake of Russia’s invasion on February 24.

The ship carrying 70,000 tons of maize sailed off before dawn, said Viorel Panait, the chief executive of the operator, Comvex, without revealing where it was heading.

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“This is a very important moment that demonstrates Romania’s commitment to show solidarity with war-torn Ukraine,” he told AFP, praising the company for playing a “pioneering role.”

The 229-metre-long Unity T ship flies the Marshall Islands flag, a port authority source told AFP.

Bucharest has pledged in recent weeks to modernize its port and rail infrastructure to enable exports from Ukraine, which shares a 650-kilometer (400-mile) border with Romania.

The transport ministry has launched a call for tenders to reopen a railway line linking the Moldovan town of Giurgiulesti with Galati in eastern Romania.

The short crossover is crucial - its compatible track gauge makes it easier to transport goods.

“The port of Galati on the Danube will become a key passageway in the region, alongside that of Constanta, for the transport of goods and raw materials from Ukraine, via Moldova,” Transport Minister Sorin Grindeanu wrote this week on Facebook.

“A transport network is taking shape to help Ukraine export its agricultural production,” Panait said, saying this would avoid the risk of “famine” in the world.

Before the war, the country exported 4.5 million tons of agricultural produce per month through its ports - 12 percent of the world’s wheat, 15 percent of its corn and 50 percent of its sunflower oil.

But Russia’s blockade has “de facto stopped our exports,” Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky told AFP in an interview at the end of March.

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