Russian missiles target Odessa in wake of Ukraine grain export deal – Reuters
KYIV, Ukraine – Russia fired several missiles at the port of Odessa on Saturday, Ukrainian authorities said, raising questions about whether Moscow would honor a crucial agreement reached on Friday to unblock Ukrainian seaports to allow the transport of millions tonnes of cereals needed to feed the countries of Africa and the Middle East.
« The enemy attacked the maritime trade port of Odessa with winged cruise missiles ‘Kalibr’, » the Ukrainian army’s Southern Operations Command reported on Facebook. “2 rockets were shot down by the air defense forces. 2 affected port infrastructure.
While photos and videos of black smoke rising from the port circulated on social media, the attack’s impact on the grain export deal was not immediately clear. But Ukrainian officials and politicians said it was more the same for Russian President Vladimir Putin and called on Western partners to provide Ukraine with air defense systems.
« 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 », said Oleh Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. tweeted. « In the event of non-compliance, Russia will bear full responsibility for the global food crisis, » he said.
« Give Ukraine weapons to protect Odessa », tweeted Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko. “Anti-aircraft defense, fighters, anti-ship missiles. Russia understands only force.
Andriy Yermak, chief of staff of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote on Twitter that « the Russians are systematically creating a food crisis by doing everything to make people suffer ».
“The terror of famine continues. The world must act,” Yermak said. « The best food security guarantees are twofold: effective sanctions against Russia and more weapons for Ukraine. »
US Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the Russian attack « outrageous ».
« The Kremlin continues to weaponize food », Brink tweeted. « Russia must be held accountable. »
The grain export deal aims to reopen Ukrainian seaports and ensure safe passage for vessels carrying Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea to import-dependent countries.
Kyiv clarified on Friday that the agreement was not political. Ukraine’s infrastructure minister and Russia’s defense minister signed separate documents with the UN and Turkey, pledging to abide by their terms of the deal.
The agreement allows for the creation of a « control centre » in Istanbul, which will coordinate and monitor grain exports.
At a press conference in Istanbul after the deal was signed, UN Secretary-General António Guterres celebrated it, calling it « a deal for the world ».
“It will bring relief to developing countries on the brink of bankruptcy and to the most vulnerable people on the brink of starvation. This will help stabilize world food prices which were already at record highs even before the war,” he said.
But even before the ink on the deal dried, Western and Ukrainian officials worried about whether Russia would stick to it.
« That’s all you need to know about the Russians and the deals, » Ukrainian Goncharenko said on Saturday. « [Putin] is arm all.”