Russia strikes Ukrainian Black Sea port despite grain deal | International

KYIV, Ukraine • Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa just hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed agreements to allow grain exports to resume from there. Ukraine’s foreign ministry denounced Saturday’s airstrikes as a “spit in the face” at Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the deals.

Two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles hit port infrastructure and Ukrainian air defenses shot down two others, the Ukrainian army’s southern command said. Odessa regional governor Maksym Marchenko said an unknown number of people were injured in the attack.

Command spokeswoman Nataliya Humenyuk said no grain storage facilities were hit in Odessa. Turkey’s defense minister, however, said he spoke with Ukrainian authorities and one missile hit a grain silo and another landed nearby, but neither affected loading at the docks. from Odessa.

“It took less than 24 hours for Russia 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”, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. “Failure to comply will result in Russia taking full responsibility for a global food crisis.”

“The invaders can no longer deceive anyone,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

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

Guterres’ office said the UN chief “unequivocally condemns” the strikes.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the world stage to ensure the safe flow of Ukrainian grain and related products to world markets,” Guterres’ statement said. “These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of people.”

It was unclear how Saturday’s Russian airstrikes would affect the plan to resume Ukrainian grain shipments by sea through safe corridors from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. Ukraine and Russia on Friday signed identical agreements with the UN and Turkey in Istanbul backing the plan, which Guterres hailed as “a beacon of hope” for a world in which food prices are rising rapidly.

The agreements were intended to pave the way for the shipment of millions of tons of grain from Ukraine and some Russian exports of grain and fertilizers blocked by the war. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the Russian invasion and naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press showed that the agreements called for the establishment of a joint UN-led coordination center in Istanbul, where Ukrainian, Russian and Turkish officials would oversee the scheduling and searches of the cargo ships.

Zelenskyy previously called the accords “a chance to prevent a global catastrophe – a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries around the world, especially in countries that help us.”

Zelensky’s bureau chief Andriy Yermak said on Twitter that the Odessa strike, which came so soon after the Black Sea deal was approved, illustrated “the Russian diplomatic dichotomy”.

US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink called the strike on the port of Odessa “outrageous”.

“The Kremlin continues to weaponize food,” she tweeted. “Russia must be held accountable.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to the deal and undermines the work of the UN, Turkey and Ukraine.

“Russia bears responsibility for the worsening global food crisis and must stop its aggression and fully implement the agreement it has signed up to,” he said.

Russia also fired a barrage of missiles at an airfield and railway facility in central Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least three people, while Ukrainian forces fired rockets at river crossings in an area south occupied by Russia.

The attacks on key infrastructure marked new attempts by warring parties to tip the balance of the bitter conflict in their favor.

In the central Kirovohradska region of Ukraine, 13 Russian missiles hit an airfield and a railway facility. Governor Andriy Raikovych said at least one serviceman and two guards were killed and 16 people were injured in the strikes near the town of Kirovohrad.

In the southern region of Kherson, which Russian troops seized at the start of the invasion, Ukrainian forces preparing for a possible counter-offensive fired rockets at the Dnieper crossings in an attempt to disrupt the lines of attack. Russian supplies. Still, Russian troops have largely held their ground in the Kherson region just north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces at a checkpoint block 1,200 vehicles carrying people fleeing the area and four people have died after being stuck there for days amid intense heat, Ivan Fedorov said, mayor of the city of Melitopol, which is now under Russian control. control.

In the key port city of Mykolaiv, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said two people were injured when Russian rockets hit a building.

Fighting also raged unabated in the industrial heartland of Donbass in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces tried to make further gains in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Earlier this week, Ukraine shelled the Antonivskyi Bridge over the Dnieper using the US-supplied high-mobility artillery rocket system, said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the appointed regional administration. by Russia to Kherson.

Stremousov told Russian news agency Tass that the only other crossing of the Dnieper, the dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, was also attacked by rockets launched with weapons supplied by Washington but was not damaged.

HIMARS, which can fire GPS-guided rockets at targets 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, beyond the range of most Russian artillery systems, has significantly boosted Ukraine’s strike capability.

Additionally, Ukrainian forces shelled a car bridge over the Inhulets River in the village of Darivka, Stremousov told Tass. He said the bridge east of the regional capital of Kherson suffered seven hits but remained open. Stremousov said that unlike the Antonivskyi Bridge, the small Darivka Bridge has no strategic value.

Since April, the Kremlin has focused on capturing Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking region where pro-Moscow separatists have declared independence.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed this week that Moscow plans to retain control of other areas in Ukraine that its forces occupied during the war.