Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine Port; Cave says it is still preparing grain shipments

  • 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
  • The UN Secretary General has condemned the missile attacks

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 Zelensky said the strike showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement the deal. However, public broadcaster Zaspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles did not cause significant damage and that preparations to resume grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports were ongoing, a government minister said.

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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UN officials had said on Friday that the deal would enter into force within weeks, and the strikes on Odessa drew sharp condemnation from Kyiv, the United Nations and the United States. read more

Turkey’s defense minister said Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the attack on the port. A Russian Defense Ministry statement on Saturday, outlining the progress of the battle, did not mention any strikes in Odessa. The ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Two Russian Kalibr missiles hit a pumping station area in the port of Odesa, and two more missiles were shot down by air defense forces, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said the missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.

Suspilne later quoted Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command, as saying that the port’s grain storage area was not affected. No casualties were reported.

“We are continuing technical preparations for exporting agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook.

The strike appeared to violate the terms of Friday’s agreement, which would have allowed safe passage in and out of Odessa and two Ukrainian ports.

“This only proves one thing: whatever Russia says or promises, it will find ways to not implement it,” Zelensky said in a video posted on Telegram.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “unequivocally condemned” the reported strikes, a spokesman said, adding that all parties to the grain export deal had committed themselves and full implementation was essential.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people around the world,” spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusay Agar said in a statement, “In our communication with Russia, the Russians have told us that we have absolutely nothing to do with this attack, and that they are investigating the issue very closely and in detail.”

“We are very concerned that such an incident happened after the agreement we made yesterday,” he added.

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A safe path

Ukraine has mined the waters near its ports as part of its war defences, but under the agreement pilots will guide ships in safe lanes in its territorial waters. 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 there will be no attacks on these institutions and that it is the JCC’s job to address any prohibited activities found.

“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.

Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Kiev, wrote on Twitter: “Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account.”

Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for reducing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining approaches to its Black Sea ports.

Rising food prices

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 disruptions and fueled food and energy price inflation, along with Western sanctions on Russia. 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.

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The deal, which is expected to be fully operational in a few weeks, will restore grain exports from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes per month, UN officials said on Friday. read more

He said on Friday the deal would make about $10 billion worth of grain available for sale and export about 20 million tonnes of last year’s harvest. However, in the broader conflict, he told the Wall Street Journal, there can be no ceasefire without regaining lost ground.

Ukraine attacked a bridge in the occupied Black Sea region of Kherson on Saturday, targeting a Russian supply route, prompting Kyiv to prepare for a major counteroffensive, a Ukrainian regional official said.

The deputy head of the Russian established regional authority said the bridge was hit by seven rockets from Western-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), but the bridge was still working, Russia’s TASS news agency reported. read more

Claims from either side have not been independently verified by Reuters.

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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Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth in London and Reuters Bureaus Writing by Jakob Kronholdt-Pedersen Editing by Frances Kerry and Louise Heavens

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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