Ukraine, UN denounce Russian missile attack on Odessa following deal to unblock grain exports

Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed deals to allow grain exports to resume from there. Ukraine’s foreign ministry denounced Saturday’s strike as “spitting in the face” of Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the deals.

Two Russian missiles hit port infrastructure and Ukrainian air defenses shot down two others, the Ukrainian army’s southern command said. He did not specify the damage or indicate whether the strike caused any casualties.

“It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on the port of Odessa, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments to the UN and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement”, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. “If they fail to comply, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis.”

Nikolenko described the missile strike on the 150th day of Russia’s war in Ukraine as “the spitting of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made great efforts to reach an agreement”.

Guterres’ office released a statement saying the UN chief “unequivocally condemns” the strikes.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the world stage to ensure the safe flow of Ukrainian grain and related products to world markets,” the statement said. “These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of needy people around the world. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.

The grain held back by war

At a Friday signing ceremony in Istanbul, António Guterres hailed agreements to open the Ukrainian ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny to commercial food exports as “a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibilities , a glimmer of relief in a world that desperately needs it.” already.”

The agreements were intended to pave the way for the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and some Russian exports of grain and fertilizers blocked by the war. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion of the country and naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments.

A truck is seen at a grain terminal while harvesting barley in the Odessa region of Ukraine last month. (Igor Tkachenko/Reuters)

Documents obtained by The Associated Press showed the agreements called for a joint UN-led coordination center in Istanbul, where Ukrainian, Russian and Turkish officials would oversee the cargo scheduling and searches.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that the agreements offered “a chance to prevent a global catastrophe – a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries of the world, especially in countries that help us” .

Zelenskyy’s bureau chief Andriy Yermak said on Twitter that the Odessa strike coming so soon after the Black Sea ports deal was approved illustrated “the Russian diplomatic dichotomy”.

3 dead in airfield strike

Alongside the strike on Odessa, the Russian military fired a barrage of missiles at an airfield and railway facility in central Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least three people, while Ukrainian forces fired rockets on river crossings in a southern region occupied by Russia.

Attacks on key infrastructure marked new attempts by warring parties to tip the balance of the bitter conflict in their favor.

In the central Kirovohradska region of Ukraine, 13 Russian missiles hit an airfield and a railway facility. Governor Andriy Raikovych said at least one soldier and two guards were killed.

In the southern region of Kherson, which Russian troops seized at the start of the invasion, Ukrainian forces preparing for a possible counter-offensive fired rockets at the Dnieper crossings in an attempt to disrupt the supply of Russians.

A local resident stands inside an apartment damaged by a Russian military strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Saturday. (Vyacheslav Madiyevsky/Reuters)

Fighting also raged in the industrial heartland of Donbass in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces tried to make further gains in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Russian troops also faced Ukrainian counterattacks but largely held their ground in the Kherson region, just north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Ukrainians use US-supplied rocket system

Earlier this week, the Ukrainians shelled the Antonivskyi Bridge over the Dnieper using the US-supplied high-mobility artillery rocket system, said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the regional administration appointed by Russia in Kherson.

Stremousov told Russian news agency Tass that the only other crossing of the Dnieper, the dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, was also attacked by rockets launched with weapons supplied by Washington but was not damaged.

HIMARS, which fires GPS-guided rockets at targets 80 kilometers away, a distance that puts it out of range of most Russian artillery systems, has significantly boosted Ukraine’s strike capability.

A Ukrainian police officer checks the documents of a man and a woman on a bicycle, while patrolling during a nighttime curfew, at a checkpoint in the Donetsk region on Friday. (Nariman El-Mofty/Associated Press)

Additionally, Ukrainian forces shelled a car bridge over the Inhulets River in the village of Darivka, Stremousov told Tass. He said the bridge just east of the regional capital of Kherson suffered seven hits but remained open to traffic.

Stremousov said that unlike the Antonivskyi Bridge, the small Darivka Bridge has no strategic value.

Since April, the Kremlin has focused on capturing Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have declared independence.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed on Wednesday that Moscow plans to retain control of other areas occupied by its forces during the war.

A woman watches over her house which was hit by shelling in the village of Zalissya, Kyiv region, on Friday. (Sergei Chuzakov/AFP/Getty Images)