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More cargo ships from Ukraine use a civilian corridor despite Russian threats

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A third cargo vessel to depart Ukraine despite Russian threats has been located at a short distance away from Bulgarian territorial waters, maritime officials said Saturday.

The Anna-Theresa, a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier carrying 56,000 tons of pig iron, left the Ukrainian port of Yuzhny on Friday, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

He added that a second vessel – the Ocean Courtesy, traveling under a Marshall Islands flag — left the same port on Friday with 172,000 tons of iron ore concentrate. It was expected to reach Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta Saturday afternoon, according to the global ship tracking website MarineTraffic.

The two vessels sailed through a temporary corridor for civilian ships from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to the Bosporus, Kubrakov said on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter. The corridor goes along the western shores of the Black Sea avoiding international waters and using instead those controlled by NATO members Romania and Bulgaria.

On Saturday, authorities at the Bulgarian port of Varna did not confirm whether the bulk carrier will enter the port or continue to the Bosporus Strait.

The ships were the third and fourth vessels that used the interim corridor established by Ukraine’s government after Russia halted a wartime agreement aimed at ensuring safe grain exports from Ukraine. The vessels had been docked in Ukrainian Black Sea ports since before Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor.

Their departure coincided with the official announcement of a meeting on Monday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The high-level talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi come just over six weeks after Moscow broke off a deal brokered by Ankara and the U.N. that allowed Ukrainian grain to reach world markets safely despite the 18-month war.

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