Russian missiles hit Ukrainian port; Kyiv says it is still preparing grain exports

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KYIV – Russian missiles struck the port of Odessa in southern Ukraine on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said, threatening an agreement signed a day earlier to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports and alleviate global food shortages caused by war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the strike showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement the deal. However, state broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles did not cause significant damage and a government minister said preparations were continuing to restart grain exports from Black Sea ports.

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The agreement signed on Friday by Moscow and Kyiv and brokered by the United Nations and Turkey was hailed as a breakthrough after nearly five months of fierce fighting since Russia invaded its neighbor. It is seen as crucial in curbing soaring global food prices by allowing grain exports to be shipped from Black Sea ports, including Odessa.

UN officials said on Friday they hoped the deal would be operational within weeks, and the strikes on Odessa were strongly condemned by the United Nations, European Union, United States, Great Britain Britain, Germany and Italy.

Turkey’s defense minister said Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow had « nothing to do » with the strikes on Odessa. Neither a Russian Defense Ministry statement nor the army’s Saturday evening summary made mention of a missile strike in Odessa. The ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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

Suspilne quoted spokeswoman for the Southern Ukrainian Military Command, Natalia Humeniuk, as saying that the port’s grain storage area was not affected.

“Unfortunately, there are injuries. The port infrastructure was damaged,” Odessa region governor Maksym Marchenko said.

But Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook that « we are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports ».

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The strike appears to violate the terms of Friday’s agreement, which would allow safe passage to and from Odessa and two other Ukrainian ports.

« It only proves one thing: whatever Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it, » Zelenskiy said in a video posted on Telegram.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres « unequivocally condemned » the strikes, a spokesman said, adding that full implementation of the agreement was imperative.

« These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of needy people around the world, » spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement: « During our contacts with Russia, the Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and were looking into the matter. up close and in detail. »

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“The fact that such an incident happened right after the agreement we reached yesterday really worried us,” he added.

Ukraine has mined the waters near its ports as part of its war defences, but under the agreement pilots will guide ships along safe channels.

A Joint Coordination Center (JCC) made up of members from all four parties to the agreement will then monitor vessels transiting through the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and to global markets.

All parties agreed on Friday that there would be no attacks on these entities and that it would be up to the JCC to resolve any prohibited activity.


Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook that « the Russian missile is (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s spitting in the face » of António Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

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US Ambassador to Kyiv, Bridget Brink, wrote on Twitter: “The Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, accusing Western sanctions of slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine of mining the approaches to its ports.

A blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea Fleet since the invasion of Moscow on February 24 has trapped tens of millions of tons of grain and blocked many ships.

This has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks and, along with Western sanctions on Russia, fueled food and energy price inflation. Russia and Ukraine are the world’s main suppliers of wheat and a global food crisis has plunged some 47 million people into « acute hunger », according to the World Food Programme.

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The deal would restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes a month, UN officials said.

Zelenskiy said he would put about $10 billion worth of grain on sale with about 20 million tonnes of last year’s crop to be exported. However, on the wider conflict, he told the Wall Street Journal that there could be no ceasefire without retaking lost territory.

Three people were killed on Saturday when 13 Russian missiles hit a military airfield and railway infrastructure in central Ukraine’s Kirovohrad region, the regional governor said on television.

Ukraine struck a bridge in the occupied Black Sea region of Kherson, targeting a Russian supply route, a Ukrainian official said. The deputy head of the Russian-installed regional authority said the bridge had been hit but was still functioning, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Putin calls the war a « special military operation » and said it was aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call it a baseless pretext for aggressive land grabbing.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth in London and at Reuters bureaus; Writing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Frances Kerry, Louise Heavens and Grant McCool)



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