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YUZHNE, (Ukraine): The first UN-chartered vessel set to transport grain from Ukraine under a deal to relieve a global food crisis was loaded with 23,000 tonnes of wheat on Sunday and is ready to depart, Kyiv announced.

The MV Brave Commander will “head to Africa” and “Ethiopia will be the last country where the 23,000-tonne cargo of wheat will be delivered”, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said at the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi in Yuzhne city to oversee the ship’s loading.

“I hope that other ships chartered by the (UN’s) World Food Programme will come to our ports. I hope there will soon be two, three more ships,” Kubrakov added.

The minister later said on Twitter that the ship was fully loaded and ready to leave but did not say when it would depart.

The MV Brave Commander docked at the Pivdennyi port, close to Odessa, on Friday. According to the Ukrainian infrastructure ministry, it will leave for Djibouti from where the grain will then be sent to Ethiopia.

It will be the first shipment of food aid since Kyiv and Moscow agreed a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey last month to unblock Black Sea grain deliveries after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine.

The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Kyiv.

“We are definitely planning other ships to leave the ports of Ukraine, to help people around the world... This should just be the first of many humanitarian ships to leave the ports,” Marianne Ward, WFP deputy country director in Ukraine, told journalists.

The first commercial ship carrying grain left on August 1 and in total, 16 vessels have departed from Ukraine since the July deal, according to Kyiv.

But no UN vessel carrying humanitarian food assistance has set sail.

Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s biggest grain exporters.

The WFP says a record 345 million people in 82 countries face acute food insecurity and up to 50 million people in 45 countries are on the brink of famine and risk being tipped over the edge without humanitarian support.

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