Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Russia to honor its agreement to let Ukraine export grain to the world as the first such shipment since the start of the war in February left the Black Sea.
Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday that the shipment is only the first step and Russia abiding by the deal it made is essential for supporting food security throughout the world.
Russia and Ukraine signed deals with Turkey and the United Nations last month to allow Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods across the Black Sea. Russia had previously not allowed such shipments out of Ukrainian ports amid its invasion of the country.
The deal showed promise of helping to alleviate a food shortage, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling it a “beacon of hope” for millions of hungry people at the time. But Russia launched missiles on the Black Sea trade port of Odessa less than 24 hours after the deal was reached, casting some doubt as to whether it would abide by the agreement.
Blinken said Russia must end its attacks, which he said have left Ukrainian farmland useless and destroyed agricultural infrastructure.
“As long as Russia continues its aggression, the Ukrainian people and the world’s most vulnerable will continue to suffer its effects,” he said.
Blinken commended the U.N. and Turkey for facilitating the deal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky downplayed the significance of the first shipment in a video to Australian students on Wednesday, Reuters reported. He said the shipment was only carrying a small portion of what Ukraine must sell to rebuild its economy.
Reuters reported that the ship was inspected in Turkey before arriving at its destination in Lebanon.