Ukraine is working to restart grain exports from Odessa and other Black Sea ports following a missile strike that called into question Russia’s compliance with an agreement aimed at reducing the global food shortage caused by the war.
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday denounced the strikes on Odessa as blatant “barbarism,” showing that Moscow cannot be trusted to implement Friday’s deal brokered by Turkey and the UN.
However, a government minister said preparations were underway to resume grain shipments, and public broadcaster Suspilne quoted Ukrainian military officials as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage to the port.
The agreement signed by Moscow and Kyiv was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough to help curb soaring global food prices, but as the war entered its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of the fighting easing.
While the main theater of operations was the eastern region of Donbass, Mr. Zelenskiy said in a video released late Saturday night that Ukrainian forces were advancing “step by step” into the occupied eastern Black Sea region of Kherson.
The attacks on Odessa drew strong condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. On Friday, UN officials said they hope the agreement will come into effect in a few weeks.
A video released by the Ukrainian military shows firefighters fighting the fire on an unidentified boat moored next to the tugboat. Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video or the date it was taken.
The Turkish defense minister said Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow “had nothing to do” with the strikes. Neither the statements of the Russian Ministry of Defense nor the military briefing tonight mention missile attacks on Odessa. The ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Farmer Sergei displays grain in his barn in the village of Ptych in eastern Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, June 12, 2022. Source: AP / Ephraim Lukatsky/AP
Two Russian Kalibr missiles hit the area of the pumping station in the port, two more were shot down by air defense forces, according to the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said the missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.
Suspilnoye cites Ukraine’s southern military command as saying that the port’s granaries were not damaged.
“Unfortunately, there are wounded. The port infrastructure has been damaged,” said Maxim Marchenko, the governor of the Odessa region.
But Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov said on Facebook that “we continue technical preparations for the launch of agricultural exports from our ports.”
According to UN officials, the deal will restore grain shipments from the three newly opened ports to the pre-war level of five million tons per month.
The strikes appear to have disrupted Friday’s deal, which would have allowed safe entry and exit from Ukrainian ports.
Zelenskiy vowed to do everything possible to acquire air defense systems capable of shooting down missiles like those that hit Odessa.
Moscow denies any involvement in the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining approaches to its ports.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement that the attack on Odessa “casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal.”
“Russia is responsible for the deepening of the global food crisis and must stop its aggression,” he added.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres “unreservedly condemned” the strikes, his spokesman said, adding that full implementation of the agreement was mandatory.
UN Secretary General António Guterres. Source: A MONKEY
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusay Akar said in a statement: “The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack … The fact that such an incident took place immediately after the agreement we made yesterday is of great concern to us.”
Ukraine has mined the waters near its ports as part of its military defense, but under the agreement, pilots will guide the ships through safe channels.
Putin calls the war a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call it an unreasonable pretext for aggressive land grabs.