The maiden freight batch to be transported along the Ukraine-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-China route left the Illichivsk seaport on 15 January 2016.
The ceremony to launch a container train was attended by Infrastructure Minister Andriy Pyvovarskyy, Economic Development and Trade Minister Aivaras Abromavicius, Deputy Prime Minister Hennadiy Zubko, the head of the Odesa regional state administration, Mikheil Saakashvili, and the acting board chairman of Ukrainian Railways, Oleksandr Zavhorodniy.
According to Zubko, the route is 5,471 km long.
The route is expected to become a new itinerary along the Silk Route allowing Ukraine to deliver its cargo bypassing Russia. It includes the ferry links across the Black and Caspian seas (Illichivsk-Batumi and Alyat-Aktau-Port). It is also expected to become a competitive option to regular ground transport.
On 14 January, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Georgia signed a protocol on competitive preferential freight tariffs along the route.
Ukraine's Economic Development Ministry earlier said that Russia had de facto blocked any transit of Ukrainian goods across its territory.