Istanbul/Kyiv: Three ships carrying a total of 58,041 tonnes of corn have been authorised to leave Ukrainian ports on Friday as part of a deal to unblock grain exports, as a Russian offensive forced Ukraine to cede territory in the east.
The first vessel carrying Ukrainian grain allowed to leave port since the start of the war set sail from Odesa on Monday bound for Lebanon, under a safe passage deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.
The Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, which groups Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel, said two ships would leave from Chornomorsk and one from Odesa on Friday.
"The three outbound vessels are estimated to depart in the morning from their respective ports," it said.
From Chornomorsk, the Polarnet would leave for Karasu in Turkey with 12,000 tonnes of corn and the Rojen would take 13,041 tonnes of corn to Teesport in Britain.
From Odesa, the Navistar would take 33,000 tonnes of corn to Ringaskiddy in Ireland.
The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the flag of Liberia, was expected to arrive in Ukraine's Chornomorsk port on Friday, the regional administration of Odesa said. It would be the first ship to arrive at a Ukrainian port during the war.
As of Thursday afternoon, Osprey S was anchored in the Sea of Marmara, about 1 km (0.62 mile) off Istanbul's Asian coast, along with other ships waiting to cross the Bosphorus in to the Black Sea, according to a Reuters journalist.
Ukraine and Russia produce about one third of global wheat and Russia is Europe's main energy supplier.
Ukraine has called for the grain deal to be extended to include other products, such as metals, the Financial Times reported.
"This agreement is about logistics, about the movement of vessels through the Black Sea," Ukraine's Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told the newspaper.
"What's the difference between grain and iron ore?"
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the war was the most dangerous moment for Europe since World War Two and Russia must not be allowed to win.
Amid fears among some politicians in the West that Russia's ambitions may extend beyond Ukraine, Stoltenberg warned Putin that the response to such a move from the Western military alliance would be overwhelming.
"If President Putin even thinks of doing something similar to a NATO country as he has done to Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine, then all of NATO will be involved immediately," Stoltenberg said.
The war has led previously non-aligned Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership, with the request so far ratified by 23 of the 30 member states, including the United States.