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A second merchant ship leaves Ukraine’s port of Odesa following Russia’s exit from grain deal

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A second container ship sailed Saturday through a temporary Black Sea corridor established by Ukraine’s government after Russia halted a wartime agreement aimed at ensuring safe grain exports from the invaded country’s ports.


The Primus, a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier, left the port of Odesa on Saturday morning and was steaming south towards the Bulgarian port of Varna, according to data from marine traffic monitoring sites. Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksii Honcharenko also posted a photo of the vessel leaving port on his Telegram channel.


The Primus’ departure came 10 days after the launch of another container ship that had been docked in Odesa since before Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor, the Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte. Analysts had surmised that China’s political closeness to Russia might have eased that ship’s passage and raised doubts whether vessels registered elsewhere would follow.


The interim corridor, which Kyiv has asked the International Maritime Organization to ratify, was opened on Aug. 10 as U.S. and Ukrainian officials warned of possible Russian attacks on civilian vessels in the Black Sea. Sea mines also make the voyage risky, and ship insurance costs are likely to be high for operators.


Russia withdrew from the U.N.-brokered grain deal on July 17, with Kremlin officials arguing their demands for the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer shipments had not been met. The decision came hours after a predawn attack on a bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to Russia killed two people and dealt an embarrassing blow to the Kremlin.


Although Russian officials insisted there was no link between the span and the decision to exit the deal, they described a missile and drone attack on Odesa the day after Moscow broke off the safe shipping agreement as retribution for the damaged bridge.

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