Russian missile attack on Odessa grain port hurts world food hopes

Last night renewed fears over global food supplies after Ukraine warned its grain exports may not return to pre-war levels following the Russian missile attack on Kiev’s main Black Sea port.

Russia said it destroyed a warship and a cache of anti-ship missiles when it hit Odessa just hours after signing a deal to lift the grain blockade.

The deal, signed by Moscow and Kyiv on Friday, has been hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough to stem soaring global food prices by restoring Ukraine’s grain shipments to five million tonnes a month.

But Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s economic adviser said that could be unattainable.

“Yesterday’s strike shows that it will definitely not work that way,” Oleh Ustenko told Ukrainian television.

The Ukrainian military told the public broadcaster that the missiles had not hit the port’s grain storage area or caused significant damage and that preparations were underway to resume grain shipments.

“We continue technical preparations for the export of agricultural products from our ports,” said Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov.

The Kremlin initially denied firing on Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, the day after it signed a deal that would see vital grain shipments reach vulnerable countries.

But yesterday the State Department said: “In the port city of Odessa, long-range, high-precision sea-launched missiles destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse containing Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States to the Kiev regime.”

The Kremlin had signed the deal to lift the blockade in Istanbul. Negotiated by the UN and Turkey, it was hailed as a crucial breakthrough in avoiding global famine.

The missile attack drew international condemnation of Russia and warnings that the deal could collapse before it even began.

“Russia is not breaking its patterns of breaking agreements,” said Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian MP. “Yes, I was hopeful, along with all the countries waiting for the grain. But no surprises from Moscow, just their usual terrorist aggressive behavior.”

The UN has said grain shipments from Ukraine are critical. Ukraine accounts for about 16 percent of world grain supplies, and prices have skyrocketed since the war began when Russia imposed a blockade.

The United Nations has said Ukraine’s grain exports could return to pre-war levels by the end of next month.

Ukraine’s defense of Snake Island, which guards Black Sea shipping lanes, and the arrival of US long-range artillery helped force Russia into negotiations to lift its blockade, but analysts said lobbying from African and Middle Eastern allies also had an impact could have the Kremlin.

One of the biggest buyers of Russian and Ukrainian grain is Egypt, which yesterday hosted Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, for talks kicking off a trip that includes Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo.

The Egyptian government has close ties with Russia, and this week Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, began work on Egypt’s long-delayed first nuclear power plant.

Mr Lavrov said the sanctions imposed by the West had led to global grain shortages. “When it comes to nutrition, the West needs to fix the problems it has created,” he said.

Some analysts have said the Kremlin will benefit from lifting its blockade of Ukrainian ports. It will make more money from grain and fertilizer sales, which will help fund its war in Ukraine, and also earn recognition among its allies in North Africa and the Middle East, who face potential civil unrest over soaring food prices.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said Russian artillery destroyed schools in the Donbass cities of Kostyantynivka and Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military reported Russian shelling in the north, south and east, again citing Russian operations paving the way for an attack on Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region.

His air force command said three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from the Black Sea and aimed at the western Khmelnytsky region, were shot down early yesterday.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russian missile attack on Odessa grain port hurts world food hopes

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