- Moscow and Kiev signed a grain export agreement on Friday
- The agreement sought to avert a major global food crisis
- Zelensky: The attack shows that Moscow cannot be trusted with the deal
Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine pushed ahead on Sunday with efforts to restart grain exports from Odessa and other Black Sea ports after a missile attack cast doubt on whether Russia will stick to a deal aimed at easing war-related global food shortages. .
President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the strikes on Odessa as blatant “barbarism” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement Friday’s deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.
However, a government minister said preparations are underway to resume grain shipments. Public radio Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying that the missiles did not cause significant damage to the port.
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On Sunday, Russia said its forces had bombed a Ukrainian military boat in Odessa with missiles.
The agreement signed by Moscow and Kiev was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb rising global food prices, but as the war entered its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of the fighting slowing.
While the eastern Donbass region was the main theater of combat operations, Zelensky said in a video released late on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were moving “step by step” to the occupied Kherson region in the eastern Black Sea. Read more
On Sunday, the Ukrainian military reported Russian shelling in several locations in the north, south and east, again pointing to Russian operations paving the way for an attack on Bakhmut in Donbass.
The country’s Air Force Command said it shot down three Kalibr cruise missiles, on Sunday morning, launched by Russian forces from the Black Sea and targeting the western Khmelnitsky region.
The strikes on Odessa drew condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy. On Friday, UN officials said they hoped the agreement would be in force within a few weeks. Read more
A video posted by the Ukrainian military showed firefighters battling a fire in an unidentified boat moored next to a tugboat. Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video or the date it was filmed.
Turkey’s defense minister said on Saturday that Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes.
But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday that Russian forces had hit a Ukrainian military boat in Odessa with high-precision missiles. The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented.
According to the Ukrainian military, two Russian Kalibr missiles hit the port’s pumping station area, while two others were shot down by the air defense forces.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuri Ignat, said the missiles were launched from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.
Suselny quoted the Southern Military Command of Ukraine as saying that the port’s grain storage area had not been bombed.
“Unfortunately, there are wounded. The port infrastructure has been damaged,” said Odessa region governor Maxim Marchenko.
But Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov said on Facebook, “We are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports.”
UN officials said the deal would restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of five million tons per month. Read more
The strikes appeared to violate Friday’s agreement, which would allow safe passage into and out of Ukrainian ports.
Zelensky vowed to do his best to obtain air defense systems capable of shooting down missiles like the one that hit Odessa.
The blockade imposed by the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Ukrainian ports since the invasion of Moscow on February 24 has led to the seizure of tens of millions of tons of grain and the stranding of many ships.
This has exacerbated global supply chain bottlenecks. Combined with Western sanctions on Russia, this has fueled food and energy price inflation. Russia and Ukraine are major global suppliers of wheat, and the global food crisis has pushed nearly 47 million people into “severe hunger,” according to the World Food Program.
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and for Ukraine for mining ports to its ports.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement that the attack on Odessa “casts doubts on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s agreement.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the strikes and said the full implementation of the agreement was imperative.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement: “The Russians told us they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack… The fact that such an incident occurred after the agreement we made yesterday really worries us.”
Ukraine has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defences, but under the agreement, 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 beyond to global markets. All parties agreed on Friday that there would be no attacks on these entities.
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 in Kyiv and Tom Balmforth in London and Reuters offices). Writing by Jacob Gronholt Pedersen, Matt Spitalnik and Simon Cameron Moore; Editing by William Mallard
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