- Russia confirms Odessa attack, says warship was hit
- Zelensky: The attack shows that Moscow cannot be trusted with the deal
- Zelensky’s advisor: Shipments will suffer if strikes continue
- Moscow and Kiev signed a grain export agreement on Friday
- The agreement sought to avert a major global food crisis
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine on Sunday pushed ahead with efforts to restart grain exports from its Black Sea ports under a deal aimed at easing global food shortages, but warned that deliveries would be affected if the Russian strike in Odessa was a sign of more to come. .
President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Saturday’s attack as “barbaric” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement an agreement brokered just one day ago by Turkey and the United Nations.
Public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying after the strike that the missiles did not hit the port’s grain storage area and did not cause significant damage, and Kyiv said preparations for the resumption of grain shipments were underway.
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“We are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
On Sunday, Russia said its forces had bombed a Ukrainian warship and an arms depot in Odessa with missiles.
The deal signed by Moscow and Kiev on Friday was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices, as UN officials said it could return Ukraine’s grain shipments to pre-war levels of 5 million tons per month. Read more
But Zelensky’s economic adviser warned on Sunday that the strike on Odessa suggested it could be out of reach.
“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it certainly will not work in this way,” Ole Ostenko told Ukrainian television.
He said Ukraine has the capacity to export 60 million tons of grain over the next nine months, but it will take up to 24 months if its ports are not working properly. Read more
The war enters the sixth month
With the war entering its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of the fighting stopping.
The Ukrainian military reported Russian bombing in the north, south and east, and again referred to Russian operations paving the way for an attack on Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region.
Intense Russian bombing prompted the mayor of Kharkiv to urge residents of Ukraine’s second largest city to avoid road transport, if possible.
“Last week showed that the aggressor no longer claims to shoot at military targets,” Ihor Terikov wrote in Telegram on Sunday. “Use the metro system often – as of today it is the safest way to get around.”
The Ukrainian Air Force Command said that its forces shot down in the early hours of Sunday morning three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea and targeting the western Khmelnytskyi region.
While the main theater of fighting was in the Donbass, Zelensky said in a video Saturday that Ukrainian forces are moving “step by step” into the occupied Kherson region in the eastern Black Sea. Read more
The strikes on Odessa drew condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy. Read more
Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that a Ukrainian warship and anti-ship missiles provided by the United States had been destroyed. Read more
“A Ukrainian warship moored and a warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States were destroyed by long-range, precision-guided naval missiles in the port of Odessa on the land of the ship repair factory,” it added.
Turkey’s defense minister said on Saturday that Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes.
According to the Ukrainian military, two Kalibr missiles fired from two Russian warships hit the port’s pumping station area, while the air defense forces shot down two others.
The strikes appeared to violate Friday’s agreement, which would allow safe passage into and out of Ukrainian ports.
Ukraine and Russia are global exporters of wheat, and the blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea fleet since the invasion of Moscow on February 24 has stranded tens of millions of tons of grain, exacerbating global supply chain bottlenecks.
Combined with Western sanctions on Russia, it has fueled food and energy price inflation, pushing some 47 million people into “severe hunger,” according to the World Food Program.
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and for Ukraine for mining its ports.
Ukraine has mined water near its ports as part of its war defences, but under Friday’s deal, pilots will guide ships along safe channels. Read more
A joint coordination center staffed by members of the four parties to the agreement is scheduled to monitor ships passing through the Black Sea to the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey and to global markets. On Friday, all parties agreed not to launch attacks on them.
Putin describes the war as a “special military operation” aimed at disarming Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call this a baseless pretext for an aggressive land grab.
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(Reporting by Natalia Zenets and Max Hunder in Kyiv and Tom Balmforth in London and Reuters offices.) Writing by Simon Cameron Moore and Thomas Janowski; Editing by William Mallard, Angus McSwan and Alexandra Hudson
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