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Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Four more ships carrying agricultural cargo stranded over Ukraine war Authorization to leave the country’s Black Sea coast was granted on Sunday as analysts warned that Russia was moving troops and equipment towards ports to thwart a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The agency oversees an international agreement to ship some 20 million grains from Ukraine and feed millions of hungry and poor people in Africathe Middle East and parts of Asia said the loaded ships had been cleared to leave Chernomorsk and Odessa.

Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations signed an agreement last month to create a sea lane that would allow cargo ships to safely sail out of ports blocked by the Russian military and through waters mined by the Ukrainian military. Implementation of the agreement has been slow for four months since the first ship boarded last Monday.

In the last four months of the war, Russia has focused on capturing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, pro-Moscow separatists have controlled some territories as a self-styled republic for eight years. Russian troops are making incremental progress along the border with Russia, firing missiles and rockets simultaneously to curb the movement of Ukrainian fighters elsewhere.

Five civilians have been killed in the past day when Russians and separatists opened fire on cities in the Donetsk region, which remains under Ukrainian control, according to the region’s governor, Sheryl Hayday .He and Ukrainian government officials have repeatedly urged civilians to evacuate the province.

In an analysis over the weekend, the British Ministry of Defence said the Russian invasion, which began on February 24, was “about to enter a new phase”, with a shift of fighting west and south to a front line of about 350 kilometers (217 miles), from The vicinity of the city of Porogh extends to the Russian-occupied Kherson.

Kherson, located on the Dnieper River near the mouth of the Black Sea, was held by Russia early in the war and Ukrainian officials have vowed to retake it. Kherson is 227 kilometers (141 miles) from Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, so the escalating conflict there could have an impact on international food trade.

The city of Nikolayev, an important shipbuilding center that is under heavy attack by Russian troops every day, is closer to Odessa. An industrial facility on the outskirts of the region’s capital was attacked early on Sunday, Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.

On Saturday, Russian forces launched airstrikes, fired artillery and reallocated other weapons as part of an effort to defend their positions in the occupied zone, according to the Institute for War Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

Citing local Ukrainian officials, the institute said the Russians “continue to accumulate a large amount of military equipment in a small town across the river Kherson”. The think-tank said the preparations appeared to be aimed at defending logistics routes to the city and establishing a defensive position on the left bank of the river.

Ukrainian officials were initially skeptical of the grain export deal, citing suspicions that Moscow would try to use shipping activities to bring large-scale troops offshore or launch long-range missiles from the Black Sea, as it has done many times during the war. The deal, ratified last month, calls for ships to leave Ukraine under military escort and undergo inspections.

Under the agreement, ships leaving Ukraine will be inspected by a team of officials from three countries and the United Nations to ensure they are only loaded with grain, fertilizer or food, and not any other commodities. Check incoming ships to make sure they are not carrying weapons.

The three cargo ships that left on Friday are expected to pass through Turkey’s Bosphorus on Sunday after completing inspections, the Joint Coordination Center, which manages the deal, said.. The Panamanian-flagged Navi Star was carrying 33,000 tonnes of grain to Ireland, was inspected and was ready to sail.

Turkish-flagged Polarnet, bound for Turkey, and Malta-flagged Rojen, bound for the UK, are awaiting inspection. More than 25,000 tons of corn were loaded between the two ships, awaiting inspection.Ton

The three carriers that were allowed to leave Ukraine on Sunday — the Glory, the Helena and the Riva, all flagged in the Marshall Islands — transported more than 171,000 tonnes of corn in total, the Joint Coordination Center said. The destination of the Glory is Istanbul, the Star Helena goes to Nantong, China, and the Rivafeng goes to the port of Iskenderun on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

The fourth vessel cleared to sail, the Liberian-flagged tanker Mustafa Necati, was carrying more than 6,600 tonnes of sunflower oil to Monopoli, Italy.

The center also authorized the first inbound ship under the agreement, saying the Liberian-flagged Osprey will head to the Ukrainian port of Chernomorsk on Monday. Maritime traffic tracking sites showed the ship waiting for inspection teams to board at the entrance to the Bosphorus, north of the entrance to the Black Sea.


Andrew Wilks contributed reporting from Istanbul.


This version has been corrected to show that the four new ships authorized have been cleared to sail on Sunday instead of Monday.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at

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