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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Bloomberg News reporters

Founder of Ukraine grain firm killed by Russian shelling as shipments set to resume

The ship Navi-Star sits full of grain since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began five months ago as it waits to sail from the Odesa Sea Port, in Odesa, Ukraine, Friday, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The multi-millionaire owner of Nibulon, one of Ukraine's largest agricultural companies, died during a Russian attack on the southern city of Mykolaiv on Sunday, according to the region's governor.

Oleksiy Vadaturskyi and his wife Raisa Vadaturska were killed in their home during shelling that hit several targets, including schools, a sports complex and private residences, governor Vitaliy Kim said in a post on Telegram.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed his condolences, calling the deaths "a great loss for Mykolaiv and the whole Ukraine".

Vadaturskyi, 74, founded Nibulon in 1991 with partners from the UK and Hungary, according to the company's website.

Over the decades it expanded into one of the country's largest grain storage and logistics companies, operating in at least eight of Ukraine's 27 regions and employing some 7,000 people. Nibulon developed its own river fleet to transport grain to export terminals.

Named a "Hero of Ukraine", the nation's top civilian honour, in 2007, Vadaturskyi was also awarded the title "Man of the Year" in Mykolaiv for his contributions to Ukraine's agricultural sector.

"His contribution to the development of the agricultural and shipbuilding industry, the development of the region, is invaluable," Kim wrote. Forbes in 2021 ranked Vadaturskyi the 24th wealthiest Ukrainian, with a net worth of $430m.

Born into a farming family in Ukraine's Odesa region, Vadaturskyi started his career as an chemical engineer after graduating from the Odesa Technological Institute. He specialised in bread production and distribution in Mykolaiv before starting Nibulon.

"Oleksiy Vadaturskiy and his company were never afraid of challenges and were guided by love to their neighbourhood," Zelenskiy said in a statement. "They were inspired themselves and inspired the others. They were an example to follow."

Grain shipments to resume

Meanwhile, the first ship to export Ukrainian grain since an agreement was reached for the safe transit of vessels may depart as soon as Monday, Turkey’s Haberturk TV reported, citing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.

More than a week after Russia and Ukraine reached a deal aimed at releasing millions of tonnes of grain through three Black Sea ports, no ships have sailed.

Ukraine said on Friday that it's close to restarting shipments, although the timing was linked to receiving go-ahead from the United Nations, which, along with Turkey, was a signatory to the July 22 agreement. The UN has declined to name a day.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk on Friday, where he watched grain being loaded onto a Turkish vessel.

Ukraine is one of the world's biggest wheat, corn and vegetable-oil suppliers, and crop markets are watching closely for concrete moves toward unlocking Ukraine's ports.

While there's has been incremental progress -- Ukraine's Sea Ports Authority earlier told companies a test boat would sail soon, and a group of insurers set up a programme to cover cargoes of food from Ukraine -- traders and exporters are still waiting for information about how and when vessels will depart, and to where.

Ship owners face a myriad of challenges, including recruiting crews to operate the ships as safety concerns remain. A Russian attack on Odesa's sea port with cruise missiles hours after signing the deal also raised questions about its commitment.

Lebanon seizes grain shipment 

Lebanon has seized a ship loaded with barley and wheat flour while it determines whether the cargo may have been stolen from Ukraine, said Public Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat.

The Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said the vessel was loaded at Feodosia in the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea, and that the commodities originated from Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kherson in south-eastern Ukraine.

The embassy accused Russia of stealing more than 500,000 tonnes during its occupation of the three regions. While Russia denies stealing grain, it has publicly touted the resumption of grain shipments from occupied ports.

Grain shipments from Crimea have surged since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, which analysts say indicates Ukrainian grain is being exported. Exports from Crimea are sanctioned by the European Union and the US.

The cargo ship Laodicea arrived at Tripoli in northern Lebanon on July 27, according to ship-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg. It will be held while Lebanon carries out an investigation into the cargo's origin, Oueidat told Bloomberg.

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