US FOOD AID FOR RUSSIA TO BE LOADED ON SHIP TODAY

US FOOD AID FOR RUSSIA TO BE LOADED ON SHIP TODAY

Despite the recent political upheaval in Russia, the first of a series of food aid shipments are being loaded in U.S. ports.

Liberty Shipping Group Ltd. is scheduled to load a vessel with wheat bound for Russia and another of the former Soviet republics today.Liberty Shipping also is scheduled to load 48,000 tons of corn for shipment to St. Petersburg, a portion of a $600 million food aid package announced earlier this year.

As a U.S.-flag carrier, Liberty will be paid in two parts: Russia pays the foreign-flag equivalent before the vessel sails and the U.S. government pays the differential - or the distance between the world rate and the higher Liberty bid - when the shipment is completed.

The world rate varies from port to port and commodity to commodity.

Thomas L. Mills, a Washington attorney who represents Liberty Shipping, said the company had received "every indication" that the Russian government would have a letter of credit available before the scheduled loading.

The political chaos in Moscow had raised some questions on whether the Russian government would be able to advance the freight money.

Both Mr. Mills and an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the Russian funds for grain shipments seemed to be available.

Two different Russian agencies are involved in the aid program, but only one of them obtained funds from the central government.

Prodintorg, the agency that has the authority to import vegetable oil and poultry in the government-to-government deal, "for some reason can't get its hands on freight money," the USDA official said.

Granitex - the Russian agency charged with importing grains, sugar and other products - "is obtaining government funds, but in bits and pieces," the official said.

Granitex officials have told the USDA they are not soliciting bids to

purchase the commodities until they have received the freight money.