Ukraine says first cargo ship exited Black Sea port via new corridor

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Ukraine said Wednesday the first cargo ship to use new Black Sea shipping lanes had exited a southern port despite threats from Russia that its navy could target vessels leaving the country.

Kyiv announced the maritime corridors for civilian vessels last week after Russia exited an agreement allowing safe sea passage for grain exports and threatened cargo ships in the Black Sea.

“The first vessel is moving along the temporary corridors established for civilian vessels to and from Black Sea ports,” Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a statement.

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It named the vessel as the Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte, and said it had left the port of Odesa, one of three transit hubs that participated in the now scrapped grain deal.

“Ukraine proposed this route in its appeal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO),” Kubrakov added in the statement.

“The corridor will be primarily used to evacuate ships that were in the Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdenny at the time of the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation,” he added.

Over the weekend, Moscow said it fired warning shots from a Russian warship at a cargo vessel heading towards the Ukrainian port of Izmail.

Attacks have increased on both sides of the Black Sea since Moscow exited the grain deal.

Russia has repeatedly attacked port infrastructure on the Black Sea and the Danube in Ukraine, which has targeted Russian warships in the region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed Wednesday the departure of the first cargo ship to use a new Black Sea lane, after Moscow exited a deal protecting Ukrainian grain exports from its southern ports.

“Ukraine has just made an important step toward restoring the freedom of navigation in the Black Sea. The first civilian vessel has passed through Ukraine’s new humanitarian corridor, departing from the port of Odesa,” despite warnings from Moscow that its navy could target vessels, Zelenskyy said on social media.

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