Ukraine scrambles to resume grain exports, flags Russian strikes as risk
- Russia confirms Odessa strike, says warship hit
- Zelenskiy: Attack shows Moscow cannot be trusted with deal
- Zelenskiy adviser: Shipping will suffer if strikes continue
- Moscow and Kyiv had signed a grain export agreement on Friday
- The deal had sought to avert a major global food crisis
KYIV, July 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine continued efforts on Sunday to boost grain exports from its Black Sea ports under a deal to ease global food shortages, but warned that deliveries would suffer if a Russian missile strike on Odessa was a sign of more to come.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy denounced Saturday’s attack as “barbarism” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement a deal reached just a day earlier with Turkish and United Nations mediation.
The Ukrainian army, quoted by the public television channel Suspilne, said that the Russian missiles did not hit the grain storage area at the port or cause significant damage. Kyiv said preparations to resume grain shipments were underway.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
“We are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a Facebook post.
According to the Ukrainian army, two Kalibr missiles fired from Russian warships hit the area of a port pumping station and two others were shot down by air defense forces.
Russia said on Sunday its forces hit a Ukrainian warship and an arms store in Odessa with its high-precision missiles.
The agreement signed Friday by Moscow and Kyiv was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices by restoring Ukrainian grain shipments to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes per month. Read more
But Zelenskiy’s economic adviser warned on Sunday that the strike in Odessa signals it could be out of reach.
“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it will definitely not work like that,” Oleh Ustenko told Ukrainian television.
He said Ukraine could export 60 million tonnes of grain in the next nine months, but it would take up to 24 months if operations at its ports were disrupted. Read more
THE WAR ENTERS THE SIXTH MONTH
As the war entered its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of letting up in the fighting.
The Ukrainian military reported Russian shelling in the north, south and east, and again referred to Russian operations paving the way for an assault on Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region.
His air force command said three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea and aimed at the western Khmelnytskiy region were shot down early on Sunday.
While the main theater of combat has been Donbass, the Ukrainian military said its forces had moved within firing range of Russian targets in the occupied Kherson region in the eastern Black Sea, where Kyiv mount a counter-offensive.
“Several objects of transport infrastructure in the temporarily occupied territory have been brought under fire control, which significantly limits the maneuverability and logistics of enemy troops,” the Southern Military Command said in a Facebook post.
He said he also destroyed a Russian S-300 anti-aircraft battery in the area. Read more
Reuters could not immediately verify reports from the battlefield.
The strikes on Odessa have been condemned by 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 supplied by the United States had been destroyed. Read more
“A moored Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States were destroyed by long-range precision-guided naval missiles in the seaport of Odessa on the territory of a ship repair plant,” he said.
On Saturday, Turkey’s defense minister said 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, blocked by the Russian Black Sea Fleet since the February 24 invasion of Moscow, as part of what a UN official called it a “de facto ceasefire” for covered ships and installations.
Ukraine and Russia are the world’s top wheat exporters and the blockade has trapped tens of millions of tonnes of grain, worsening bottlenecks in the global supply chain.
Along with Western sanctions on Russia, it has fueled inflation in food and energy prices, plunging some 47 million people into “acute hunger”, according to the World Food Programme.
Moscow denies any responsibility for the food crisis, accusing the sanctions of slowing its food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine of having mined the approaches to its ports.
Ukraine has mined the waters near its ports as part of its wartime defences, but under Friday’s agreement pilots will guide ships along safe channels. Read more
A joint coordination center made up of members of the four parties to the agreement is to monitor ships crossing the Black Sea to the Turkish Bosphorus Strait and to world markets. All parties agreed on Friday that there would be no attacks against them.
Putin calls the war a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call it a baseless pretext for aggressive land grabbing.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth in London and Reuters bureaus; Written by Simon Cameron-Moore and Tomasz Janowski; Editing by William Mallard, Angus MacSwan and Alexandra Hudson
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.