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First big grain ship leaves Ukraine's Black Sea port

KYIV (Reuters) -The first big ship carrying grain from a Ukrainian Black Sea port has set sail since Moscow quit a deal in July to allow exports, a Ukrainian deputy prime minister said on Friday, part of Kyiv's campaign to break Russia's de facto blockade.

The Aroyat "left the port Chornomorsk after loading 17,600 (metric tons of) Ukrainian wheat for Egypt," Oleksandr Kubrakov said on the X social media app, formerly Twitter.

He posted a photo of the ship at sea.

It was the second of two bulk carriers to leave the port this week using what Kyiv calls a new temporary humanitarian corridor. The first, the much smaller Resilient Africa, left on Tuesday, testing the route with a cargo of just 3,000 tons.

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After invading Ukraine last year, Moscow closed off the Black Sea ports from one of the world's biggest suppliers of grain, in what Kyiv and its Western backers called an attempt to use global food supplies as blackmail. Moscow said the ports could bring in weapons.

From July 2022 the ports were reopened under the UN-backed grain deal, allowing Russia to inspect ships for arms. But Moscow quit a year later and reimposed the blockade, saying its demands for better terms for its own food and fertiliser exports were being ignored.

Ukraine last month announced a "humanitarian corridor" in the Black Sea, initially using it to release ships that do not carry grain and were not covered by the grain deal, which had been trapped in its ports for more than a year.

Five vessels have left so far using the corridor, which hugs the Romanian and Bulgarian coasts.

Kyiv has also kept up exports from river ports on the Danube while its Black Sea ports were shut. Russia has launched frequent drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian grain export infrastructure in what Ukraine and its allies call attacks with no military justification. Moscow says it hits military targets.

Odesa's three seaports, including Chornomorsk, shipped tens of millions of tons of grain during Russia's invasion under the U.N.-brokered deal before Russia abandoned it.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Tom Hogue, Miral Fahmy, Peter Graff)