Ukraine on Sunday pushed ahead with efforts to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports under a deal to ease global food shortages, but warned that supplies would suffer if Russia’s strike in Odessa was a sign that more would come.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced Saturday’s attack as “barbarism” showing that Moscow cannot be trusted to implement an agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations just a day earlier.
Public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not hit the port’s grain storage area or caused significant damage, and Kyiv said preparations to resume grain shipments were underway.
“We are continuing technical preparations to start exporting agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Russia said Sunday its forces hit a Ukrainian warship and weapons cache in Odessa with rockets.
The deal, signed by Moscow and Kyiv on Friday, was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help stem soaring food prices around the world. UN officials said it could bring Ukraine’s grain shipments back to pre-war levels of 5 million tons a month.
But Zelenskyi’s economic adviser warned on Sunday that the Odessa strike had signaled it could be out of reach.
“Yesterday’s strike shows that it will definitely not work that way,” Oleh Ustenko told Ukrainian television.
He said Ukraine has the capacity to export 60 million tons of grain over the next nine months but it would take up to 24 months if its ports could not function properly.
The war enters its sixth month
As the war entered its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of the fighting abating.
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.
Increased Russian shelling prompted the mayor of Kharkiv to urge residents of Ukraine’s second-largest city to avoid overland transport if possible.
“The last week has shown that the attacker no longer even pretends to shoot at military targets,” Ihor Terekhov wrote on Telegram on Sunday. “Use the subway more often – it’s the safest way to get around these days.”
Ukraine’s Air Force Command said its forces shot down three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles early Sunday, which were fired from the Black Sea and aimed at the western Khmelnytskyi region.
While the main combat area was the Donbass, Zelenskyy said in a video on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were advancing “step by step” into the occupied eastern Black Sea region of Kherson.
The strikes in Odessa were condemned by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Italy.
Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that a Ukrainian warship and US-supplied anti-ship missiles had been destroyed.
“A docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles were destroyed by long-range naval precision-guided missiles in the Odessa seaport on the territory of a ship repair factory,” it said.
On Saturday, Turkey’s defense minister said Russian officials had told Ankara Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes.
According to the Ukrainian military, two Kalibr missiles fired by Russian warships hit the area of a pumping station at the port, and two others were shot down by air defense forces.
The strikes appeared to violate Friday’s deal that would allow safe entry and exit from Ukrainian ports.
Ukraine and Russia are world top wheat exporters, and a blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea Fleet since the February 24 Moscow invasion has trapped tens of millions of tons of grain and exacerbated bottlenecks in global supply chains.
Along with Western sanctions against Russia, it has fueled inflation in food and energy prices, pushing some 47 million people into “acute hunger,” according to the World Food Program.
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming sanctions for slowing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.
Ukraine has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defense, but under Friday’s deal, pilots will guide ships on safe channels.
A joint coordination center made up of members from the four parties is to oversee ships transiting the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and on to world markets. All sides agreed on Friday that there would be no attacks on them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a “military special operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call this an unfounded pretext for an aggressive land grab.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/ukraine-restart-grain-exports-russian-missiles-struck-odesa-port-rcna39733 Ukraine to resume grain exports after Russian missiles hit Odessa port