Ukraine working to resume grain exports, Russian strikes are a risk
- Russia confirms Odessa attack, says warship was hit
- Zelensky: The attack shows that Moscow cannot be trusted with the deal
- Zelensky’s advisor: Shipments will suffer if strikes continue
- Moscow and Kiev signed a grain export agreement on Friday
- The agreement sought to avert a major global food crisis
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine pushed ahead on Sunday with efforts to restart grain exports from its Black Sea ports under a deal aimed at easing global food shortages, but warned that shipments would suffer if a Russian missile strike on Odessa was a sign of more. to come.
President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Saturday’s attack as “barbaric” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement an agreement brokered just one day ago by Turkey and the United Nations.
Public Radio Ukraine quoted the Ukrainian army as saying that the Russian missiles did not hit the port’s grain storage area and did not cause serious damage. Kyiv said preparations were underway to resume grain shipments.
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“We are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov said in a Facebook post.
According to the Ukrainian military, two Kalibr missiles fired from two Russian warships hit the port’s pumping station area, while the air defense forces shot down two others.
Russia said on Sunday that its forces had hit a Ukrainian warship and an arms depot in Odessa with their high-precision missiles.
The agreement signed by Moscow and Kiev on Friday was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb rising global food prices by returning Ukrainian grain shipments to pre-war levels of 5 million tons per month. Read more
But Zelensky’s economic adviser warned on Sunday that the strike on Odessa suggested it could be out of reach.
“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it certainly will not work in this way,” Ole Ostenko told Ukrainian television.
He said Ukraine could export 60 million tons of grain over the next nine months, but it would take up to 24 months if its port operations were disrupted. Read more
The war enters the sixth month
With the war entering its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of the fighting stopping.
The Ukrainian military reported Russian bombing in the north, south and east, and again referred to Russian operations paving the way for an attack on Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region.
Its air force command said that three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea and targeting the western Khmelnytskyi region were shot down early Sunday morning.
While the main theater of fighting was Donbass, the Ukrainian military said its forces moved within firing range of Russian targets in the occupied Kherson region of the eastern Black Sea where Kyiv was launching a counterattack.
“Many transport infrastructure targets in the temporarily occupied territories have been brought under fire control, which significantly limits the maneuverability and logistics of enemy forces,” the Southern Military Command said in a Facebook post.
It added that it also destroyed a Russian S-300 anti-aircraft battery in the area. Read more
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the battlefield reports.
The strikes on Odessa drew condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy. Read more
Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that a Ukrainian warship and anti-ship missiles provided by the United States had been destroyed. Read more
“A Ukrainian warship docked and a warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States were destroyed by long-range, precision-guided naval missiles in the port of Odessa on the land of a ship repair factory,” she added.
Turkey’s defense minister said on Saturday that Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes.
Friday’s agreement aims to allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports, which the Russian Black Sea fleet has closed off since invading Moscow on February 24, in what a UN official called a “virtual ceasefire” for covered ships and facilities.
Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s largest wheat exporters, and the blockade has trapped tens of millions of tons of grain, exacerbating global supply chain bottlenecks.
Combined with Western sanctions on Russia, it has fueled food and energy price inflation, pushing some 47 million people into “severe hunger,” according to the World Food Program.
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and for Ukraine for mining its ports.
Ukraine has mined water near its ports as part of its war defences, but under Friday’s deal, pilots will guide ships along safe channels. Read more
A joint coordination center staffed by members of the four parties to the agreement is scheduled to monitor ships passing through the Black Sea to the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey and to global markets. On Friday, all parties agreed not to launch attacks on them.
Putin describes the war as a “special military operation” aimed at disarming Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call this a baseless pretext for an aggressive land grab.
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(Reporting by Natalia Zenets and Max Hunder in Kyiv and Tom Balmforth in London and Reuters offices.) Writing by Simon Cameron Moore and Thomas Janowski; Editing by William Mallard, Angus McSwan and Alexandra Hudson
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