- Ukraine says two missiles hit part of a grain pumping station
- The minister says that Ukraine continues to prepare for grain exports
- Moscow, Kiev signed a grain export agreement on Friday
- The agreement sought to avoid a major food crisis
KYIV, July 23 (Reuters) – Russian missiles struck Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa on Saturday, violating an agreement signed a day earlier to curb grain exports from Black Sea ports and reduce global food shortages caused by the war, Ukraine’s military said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the strike a blatant “barbarism” that Moscow could not be trusted to implement the deal. However, public broadcaster Saspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying that the missiles had not caused significant damage and that preparations to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports were ongoing.
The deal, signed by Moscow and Kiev on Friday and brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, was hailed as a breakthrough after nearly five months of punitive fighting since Russia invaded its neighbor. By allowing grain exports from Black Sea ports including Odesa, it is seen as critical to curbing rising global food prices.
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The strikes on Odessa were strongly condemned by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy. On Friday, UN officials said they hoped the agreement would enter into force within weeks. read more
Turkey’s defense minister said Russian officials told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the attacks. Neither Russian Defense Ministry statements nor the military’s evening briefing mentioned the missile strikes in Odessa. The ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Two Russian Kalibr missiles hit the pumping station area in the port; According to the Ukrainian military, two others were shot dead by air defense forces. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said the missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.
The grain storage area of the port was not affected, Suspilne said, citing Ukraine’s Southern Military Command.
“Unfortunately, there have been injuries. The port’s infrastructure has been damaged,” Odessa regional governor Maxim Marchenko said.
But Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook, “We are continuing technical preparations for the export of agricultural products from our ports.”
A safe path
The strike appeared to violate Friday’s agreement to allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports.
“If anyone in the world had said before that some kind of dialogue, some kind of agreement with Russia is necessary, look what happens,” Zelensky said in a late-night video.
He vowed to do everything possible to get air defense systems capable of shooting down missiles like the ones that hit Odessa.
“This attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s agreement,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.
“Russia is responsible for deepening the global food crisis and must stop its aggression,” he added.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has “unequivocally condemned” the strikes, a spokesman said, adding that full implementation of the agreement is imperative.
“The Russians have told us that they have nothing to do with this attack … that such an incident happened after the agreement we made yesterday worries us deeply,” Turkish Defense Minister Huluzai Agar said in a statement.
Ukraine has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defenses, but under the agreement pilots will steer ships through safe routes. read more
A Joint Coordination Center (JCC), staffed by members of the treaty’s four parties, will then monitor vessels that transit the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and global markets. All parties agreed on Friday that these institutions would not be attacked.
‘spitting in the face’
“A Russian missile spat in the face of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, accusing Western sanctions of reducing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine’s mining approaches to its ports.
The blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet after Moscow’s February 24 invasion has left tens of thousands of tons of grain stranded and many ships stranded.
This has exacerbated global supply chain bottlenecks. Along with Western sanctions on Russia, it has fueled food and energy price inflation. Russia and Ukraine are the main global wheat suppliers and the global food crisis has pushed some 47 million people into “severe hunger”, according to the World Food Programme.
UN officials said the deal would restore grain exports from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes a month. read more
On Saturday, the US State Department confirmed the recent killing of two Americans in Ukraine’s Donbas region, but declined to provide details. read more
US congressional representatives who met with Zelensky in Kiev pledged continued support. Adam Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee, was quoted as saying by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Washington and its allies are aiming to provide multiple rocket-launching systems.
13 Russian missiles hit a military airfield and railway infrastructure in central Ukraine’s Kirovohrad region, killing three people, the regional governor said.
A Ukrainian official said the bridge in the Ukrainian-occupied Black Sea region of Kherson was targeted, targeting a Russian supply route. Russia’s TASS news agency reported that the bridge had been hit but was still operational, according to the deputy head of the regional authority set up by Russia. read more
Zelensky said late Saturday that Ukrainian forces were “gradually” moving into the eastern Kherson region captured by Russia at the start of the war.
Putin called the war a “special military operation” and said it was aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kiev and the West call it a baseless pretext for an aggressive land grab.
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Reporting by Natalia Sinets in Kiev, Tom Balmforth and Reuters Bureau in London; Written by Jakob Kronholdt-Pedersen and Matt Spedelnik; Editing by Frances Kerry, Louise Heavens, Grant McCool and David Gregorio
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