Russian strike on Port of Odessa may affect grain deal

by Susie Blann THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Russian defense ministry officials on Sunday insisted that an airstrike on the port of Odessa – less than a day after Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on resuming grain shipments from there – had hit only military targets.

“In the seaport in the city of Odessa, on the territory of a shipyard, sea-based high-precision long-range missiles destroyed a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the U.S. to the Kyiv regime,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a daily briefing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly televised address Saturday evening that the attack on Odessa “destroyed the very possibility” of dialogue with Russia.

The Ukrainian military said on Saturday that Moscow had attacked Odessa’s sea port with four cruise missiles, two of which had been shot down by Ukrainian air defense.

Command spokeswoman Nataliya Humenyuk said that no grain storage facilities were hit. Turkey’s defense minister, however, said he had had reports from Ukrainian authorities that one missile struck a grain silo while another landed nearby, although neither affected loading at Odessa’s docks.

It was not immediately clear how the airstrike would affect plans to resume shipping Ukrainian grain by sea in safe corridors out of three Ukrainian Black Sea ports: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

Russia and Ukraine on Friday signed identical agreements with the U.N. and Turkey in Istanbul aimed at clearing the way for the shipment of millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, as well as the export of Russian grain and fertilizer. Senior U.N. officials voiced hopes that the deal would end a months-long standoff brought about by the war in Ukraine that threatened food security around the globe.

The agreement, obtained by The Associated Press, committed both Kyiv and Moscow to refraining from strikes on the three Black Sea ports.

Speaking at a news conference following bilateral talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shukri, on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that he had “reaffirmed the commitment of Russian grain exporters to fulfill all their obligations” in the wake of the U.N.-backed deal to unblock grain shipments.

In Ukraine’s south, regional officials said that at least five civilians were wounded by Russian shells in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

“Also, as a result of the scattering of munitions and their fragments, fires occurred in open areas in the city,” said Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region.