Russia attacks Ukrainian Black Sea port in wake of grain deal

Kyiv, Ukraine –

Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed agreements to allow grain exports from there to resume. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry denounced Saturday’s attack as “spitting in the face” by Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the deals.

Two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles hit the port infrastructure and Ukrainian air defenses shot down another two, the Ukrainian military’s Southern Command said. It did not specify the damage or say whether the attack caused any casualties.

“Russia took less than 24 hours to launch a missile attack on the port of Odessa, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments to the UN and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement,” said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Oleg Nikolenko. “In case of non-compliance, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis.”

Nikolenko described the missile attack on the 150th day of Russia’s war in Ukraine as “spitting in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who They went to great lengths to reach an agreement.

Guterres’ office released a statement saying the UN chief “unequivocally condemns” the attacks.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” the statement said. “These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of people in need around the world. It is imperative that the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey fully implement it.”

During a signing ceremony in Istanbul on Friday, Guterres hailed agreements to open Ukraine’s ports in Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny to commercial food exports as “a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”

The agreements were intended to clear the way for the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and some Russian grain and fertilizer exports held up by the war. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the Russian invasion of the country and a naval blockade of its ports halted shipments.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press showed that the deals called for a joint UN-led coordination center in Istanbul where officials from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey would oversee cargo ship scheduling and searches.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his late-night video address that the agreements offered “an opportunity to prevent a global catastrophe, a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries of the world, in particular in the countries that help us.” .

Zelenskyy’s bureau chief Andriy Yermak said on Twitter that the Odessa strike that came so soon after the approval of the deal by Black Sea ports illustrated “the Russian diplomatic dichotomy.”

Along with the attack on Odessa, the Russian military fired a barrage of missiles on Saturday at an airfield and railway facility in central Ukraine, killing at least three people, while Ukrainian forces launched rocket attacks at crossings rivers in a southern region occupied by Russia.

The attacks on key infrastructure marked new attempts by the warring parties to tip the scales of the conflict in their favour.

In the central Kirovohradska region of Ukraine, 13 Russian missiles hit an airfield and a railway facility. Governor Andriy Raikovych said at least one soldier and two guards were killed. The regional administration reported the attacks near the city of Kirovohrad, injuring another 13 people.

In the southern region of Kherson, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion, Ukrainian forces preparing for a possible counteroffensive fired rockets at crossings of the Dnieper River to try to cut off supplies to the Russians.

Despite progress on that front, fighting continued in the industrial heartland of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces tried to make new gains in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance.

Russian troops have also faced Ukrainian counterattacks, but have largely held their ground in the Kherson region, just north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Earlier this week, the Ukrainians shelled the Antonivskyi Bridge across the Dnieper River using the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-appointed regional administration in Kherson.

Stremousov told Russia’s state news agency Tass that the only other crossing of the Dnieper, the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant dam, was also hit by rockets fired from weapons supplied by Washington, but was not damaged.

HIMARS, which fires GPS-guided rockets at targets 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, a distance that puts it out of range of most Russian artillery systems, has significantly bolstered Ukraine’s strike capability.

In addition, Ukrainian forces shelled a car bridge over the Inhulets River in the town of Darivka, Stremousov told Tass. He said the bridge just east of the regional capital of Kherson suffered seven hits but remained open to traffic.

Stremousov said that, unlike the Antonivskyi Bridge, the small Darivka Bridge has no strategic value.

Since April, the Kremlin has focused on capturing Donbas, a largely Russian-speaking region of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have declared independence.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed on Wednesday that Moscow plans to retain control of other areas occupied by its forces during the war.

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