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Zelensky says two more ships are passing through the Black Sea passage

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Sept. 2 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that two more ships had passed through a “temporary” shipping lane in the Black Sea set up since Russia withdrew from a United Nations-backed grain export pact in July.

“Two ships have successfully passed through our temporary ‘grain lane’,” Zelensky wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The president did not identify the ships involved and did not say when they completed their passage. Officials said on Friday that two ships had cleared the passage, bringing the number of those using it to four.

Zelensky said Ukraine was “restoring true freedom of navigation in the Black Sea. Freedom requires determination.”

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said on Friday that two ships passed through the corridor from the port of Pivdenye: one flying the flag of Liberia and the other in the Marshall Islands. The ships carried iron ore and iron concentrate.

Russia has blockaded Ukrainian ports since it invaded its neighbor in February 2022, and threatened to treat all ships as potential military targets after withdrawing from the UN-backed deal.

In response, Ukraine announced the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” hugging the western coast of the Black Sea near Romania and Bulgaria.

The grain agreement allowed Ukraine, a major exporter of agricultural products, to ship tens of millions of metric tons of produce to other countries during the Russian invasion.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as Ankara and the United Nations seek to revive the grain export pact.

Russia withdrew from the agreement in July after it had been in effect for a year, as it complained that its exports of food and fertilizers were facing obstacles, and that not enough Ukrainian grain had reached countries in need.

Reporting by Ron Popeski. Editing by Jonathan Otis

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