OREANDA-NEWS  A ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the port of Odesa on Monday morning destined for Lebanon, the first since the start of the Russian invasion, according to Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, carrying 26,000 tons of corn, finally set sail after weeks of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, led by Turkey and the United Nations. Russia has been blockading Ukraine’s ports since the start of the war, stoking a worldwide grain shortage that has caused the UN to warn of a looming hunger catastrophe.

Ukraine, together with our partners, has taken another step today in preventing world hunger,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, said on Monday. Kubrakov stressed that Ukraine had done “everything” to restore the ports and that the lifting of the blockade would give Ukraine’s economy $1bn in foreign exchange revenue.

Turkey’s defence ministry said more ships would follow.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain producers. About 20m tonnes of grain are reportedly stuck in Ukraine waiting to be exported. The blockade has caused a worldwide grain shortage and price rises, which pushed some countries that are reliant on grain imports, namely in the Middle East and Africa, towards famine.

Kubrakov said 16 loaded vessels had been stuck in Ukraine’s ports since the Russian invasion began, and officials planned for the ports to regain full transport capacity in the coming weeks.

But the world is watching to see if Russia sticks to its side if the bargain, after an attack on Odesa port a week ago.

Russia agreed to allow grain ships to leave Ukraine and to not attack them in a deal signed on 22 July in Istanbul. But less than 24 hours later the veracity of the deal was cast into doubt when Russian forces struck Odesa port.

When questioned by Turkey’s defence minister, Russia at first denied it was involved in the attack. But the next day it issued a statement saying it had struck a Ukrainian vessel carrying western weapons that was in the port. Ukraine’s authorities rejected Russia’s explanation.

The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, said he wanted to avoid “any actions that go against the spirit of the agreement”, adding that the failure to implement the agreement would be “disadvantageous to us all”.

The US said Russia had undermined the credibility of its commitments, and shortly after it said it was working on a plan B to export more grain from Ukraine using its rivers and rail.

Since the blockade, Ukraine has managed to export more than 4m tonnes of grain through the Danube River and its railways, but much work is needed to reach the prewar export levels of 6m to 8m tonnes a month, say experts.

Industry experts have said that finding insurers and crews ready to take the risk will be a big obstacle for the exports now and in the future.

On Friday Lloyd’s of London insurer Ascot and broker Marsh announced that they had launched marine cargo and war insurance for grain and food products moving from the Black Sea ports.

The British ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, said that although the UK was not involved in the deal, it had helped in securing commercial insurance for the ships from providers in London. The announcement from Ascot signalled progress had been made.

Simmons said the port attack had worried insurance companies, but they should not be deterred. “The main thing is not to be scared of Russia’s tactics because that’s what they are – tactics, to stop this from happening,” she said.