Ukraine hopes to speed up grain exports through the recently reopened Bystre canal of the Danube River amid Russia's blockade of its key Black Sea ports.
"In the past four days, 16 ships have already passed through the mouth of Bystre. We plan to maintain this pace," Yurii Vaskov, Ukraine's deputy infrastructure minister said in a statement on Tuesday.
Access to the Danube and its small inland river ports was made possible after Ukrainian forces retook Snake Island from Russian forces in June.
Vaskov added that Kyiv was negotiating with Romania and the European Commission to increase the number of ships crossing through the canal and expected congestion on the route to "be eliminated," within a week — clearing the way for Ukraine to increase its monthly grain exports by 500,000 metric tons.
More than 90 ships are waiting to enter Ukrainian ports through the Danube's Sulina channel, according to the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry.
Prior to Russia's invasion in February, about 80% of Ukraine’s grain was exported from its Black Sea ports, the ministry said. Now, exports leave the country exclusively through the Danube ports, railway and road checkpoints.
The capacity of the new routes is "currently insufficient to replace seaports fully," the ministry said. In June, Ukraine exported about 2.5 million metric tons of goods, far short of the 8 million metric tons it had hoped to export, the ministry added.
Turkey meeting: Turkey will host talks on Wednesday with Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations on the export of grain shipments sitting in Ukrainian ports, according to the Turkish defense minister. Ukrainian officials say more than 20 million tons of grain remain stuck in Ukraine due to Moscow's blockade of Black Sea ports.