The United Nations is expected to announce an agreed-upon route for grain shipments via the Black Sea on Friday.
Although a deal was brokered last week between Ukraine and Russia to allow urgent grain to be exported, no ship has left so far, despite hopes to resume shipments as early as this week.
“Nearly all technical issues have been agreed. Today, we are receiving a confirmation from the UN regarding a proposed route that our vessels can follow in the Black Sea towards Bosphorus strait. And we are ready to start after that. I hope, by the end of the week, first vessels can leave our ports,” Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov told journalists during a news conference Friday, adding that Ukraine has done “200%” on its part for grain shipments to resume.
Asked whether there would be shipments on Friday, Kubrakov said, “Let’s see. We are waiting until the end of this week, but it depends on how [the] UN team will work and facilitate.”
“The United Nations is committed to remain fully involved and counts on the parties to really effectively comply with the agreement,” UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Oslat Lubrani told reporters, saying that UN Secretary General António Guterres has been personally involved “day and night” in the negotiations.
US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink told journalists that “the United States and the rest of the world will look to Russia to stand up and implement its agreements.”
The UK’s Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons said that “the ball is in Russia’s court.”
“They are still signing off on the route that will be taken. The Ukrainians have put their ideas together, the Russians have other ideas, and the UN is having to mediate it. That’s what we are waiting on,” Simmons said.
Some background: Turkey and the UN brokered the deal between Ukraine and Russia last week, which was aimed at easing a global food crisis sparked by the war.
The breakthrough followed months of negotiations, and promises to unblock ports on the Black Sea to allow the safe passage of grain and oilseeds — some of Ukraine’s most important exports.
Russia has so far been blocking maritime access to those ports, meaning that millions of tons of Ukrainian grain has not been exported to the many countries that rely on it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the G7 ambassadors to Ukraine gathered at the Chornomorsk port near Odesa earlier Friday in a show of unity following an agreement to allow the resumption of grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
“It is important for us to remain the guarantor of world food security. As someone blocks the Black Sea and takes life in other countries, we allow people to survive,” Zelensky said on his Telegram account sharing pictures of the event.
CNN’s Nic Robertson, Kareem Khadder, Rob Picheta, Jomana Karadsheh, Radina Gigova and Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.