Six more ships carryingis held by the was given permission on Sunday to leave the Black Sea coast as analysts warned that Russia was moving troops and equipment towards the southern port cities to prevent a Ukrainian counterattack.
Ukraine and Russia have also accused each other of bombing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
The laden ships were cleared to depart from Chornomorsk and Odesa, according to the Joint Coordination Center, which oversees an international deal to export about 20 million tons of grain from Ukraine to feed millions of hungry people in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
Yurri Yalovchuk, a third-generation farmer, told CBS News he has 1,000 tons of barley harvested that should have been shipped in the spring. No longer suitable for human consumption, it becomes chicken feed.
Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations signed the accords last month to create a 111-nautical-mile sea lane that will allow cargo ships to travel safely from ports blocked by the Russian military and through waters that had been mined by the Ukrainian army. Implementation of the agreement, which is valid for four months, has been slow since the first ship boarded on August 1.
Four of the carriers allowed on Sunday to leave Ukraine were carrying more than 219,000 tons of corn. The fifth was carrying more than 6,600 tons of sunflower oil and the sixth was carrying 11,000 tons of soybeans, the Joint Coordination Center said.
Three other cargo ships that departed on Friday passed their inspections and were cleared on Sunday to pass through Turkey’s Bosphorus strait en route to their final destinations, the Center said.
However, the ship that left Ukraine last Monday with great fanfare as the first under the grain export deal delayed its scheduled arrival in Lebanon on Sunday, according to a Lebanese minister and the Ukrainian embassy. The cause of the delay was not immediately clear.
Ukrainian officials were initially wary of a grain export deal, citing suspicions that Moscow would try to exploit shipping activity to mass troops offshore or send long-range missiles from the Black Sea, as it has done many times during the war.
The agreements call for ships to leave Ukraine under military escort and undergo inspections to make sure they are carrying only grain, fertilizer or food and no other goods. Incoming cargo ships are screened to ensure they are not carrying weapons.
In an analysis over the weekend, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Russian invasion that began on February 24 “is poised to enter a new phase” in which fighting will shift to a frontline of about 350 kilometers (217 miles) stretching near in the city of Zaporizhzhia in Russian-occupied Kherson.
That area includes the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which came under fire late Saturday. Each side blamed the other for the attack.
Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator Energoatom said Russian shelling destroyed three radiation screens around the spent nuclear fuel storage facility and injured one worker. Russian news agencies, citing the management of the separatist-run factory, said Ukrainian forces fired those shells.
Russian forces have occupied the power station for months. Russian soldiers there took shelter in bunkers before Saturday’s attack, according to Energoatom.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently warned that the way the plant operates and the fighting around it poses serious threats to health and the environment.
In the last four months of the war, Russia has focused on seizing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have controlled some territory as self-proclaimed republics for eight years. Russian forces have made incremental advances in the region while launching rocket and missile attacks to restrict the movement of Ukrainian fighters elsewhere.
The Russians “continue to amass large amounts of military equipment” in a city across the Dnieper River from Russian-held Kherson, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. Citing local Ukrainian officials, it said preparations appeared designed to defend logistical routes into the city and establish defensive positions on the left bank of the river.
Kherson came under Russian control early in the war, and Ukrainian officials have vowed to retake it. It is just 227 kilometers (141 miles) from Odessa, home to Ukraine’s largest port, so the escalating conflict there could have implications for the international grain deal.
The city of Mykolaiv, a shipbuilding center that Russian forces bomb daily, is even closer to Odessa. Mykolayiv Oblast Governor Vitaly Kim said an industrial facility on the outskirts of the regional capital came under fire early Sunday.
Last day, five civilians were killed by Russian and separatist fire on towns in the Donetsk region, the part of Donbass still under Ukrainian control, the regional governor, Serhi Haidai, said.
He and Ukrainian government officials have repeatedly urged civilians to leave.
Andrew Wilks contributed reporting from Istanbul.