The port of Berdyansk as seen in March.
A merchant ship with 7,000 tons of grain has left the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Berdyansk, the first such shipment from the port since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Evgeny Balitsky, the head of the Moscow-appointed administration in the Zaporizhzhya region, said on Telegram on June 30 that the ship is headed for "friendly countries."
He did not specify which countries were considered "friendly," nor did he give any details on the origins of the grain.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing its grain during the invasion and blockading its ports to keep grain from leaving the country, which has helped contribute to a global food shortage.
Moscow has denied taking Ukrainian grain, but satellite images and GPS data have been used to back up the allegations that Russia has been transporting grain out of Ukraine through the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
Grain is one of Ukraine's main industries. Exports totaled $12.2 billion last year and accounted for nearly one-fifth of the country's exports. Ukraine's Black Sea ports, including Berdyansk, handled about 6 million tons of grains and other crops each month before the war.
Russia and Ukraine together, meanwhile, account for nearly one-third of the world's wheat supply.
Many areas of southern Ukraine have been placed under the control of Russia-appointed officials since Moscow launched its war against Ukraine on February 24. Some of those areas are now being forcefully integrated into Russia's economy. In the weeks following the invasion, many Western countries and the European Union slapped crippling sanctions on Russia, which in turn created a list of "unfriendly" foreign state and territories.