The Russian attack on the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Saturday threatens efforts to avert a global food crisis.
Russian missiles hit Ukrainian port of Odessa [SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images]
Russian missiles struck the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Saturday, in what Kyiv called a “spit in the face” of a day-old deal between warring parties to resume grain exports stalled by the conflict.
Ukraine’s military said its air defenses shot down two cruise missiles, but two more hit the port, threatening the historic deal struck during months of negotiations aimed at alleviating a global food crisis.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the strike was “a spit in the face” of Russian leader Vladimir Putin against the deal brokered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the strikes on Odessa showed Moscow could not deliver on its promises.
“It only proves one thing: whatever Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement,” he said during a meeting with US lawmakers, according to a statement from the media. the Presidency.
Odessa is one of three export hubs named in the deal and Ukrainian officials said grain was stored at the port at the time of the strike, although food stocks did not appear to have been affected.
Guterres – who presided over the signing ceremony on Friday – “unequivocally” condemned the attack, his deputy spokesman said, and urged all parties to stick to the agreement.
“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of needy people around the world,” he said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell directly blamed Russia for the strikes.
“Hitting a crucial grain export target the day after the signing (of) the Istanbul Accords is particularly reprehensible and once again demonstrates Russia’s utter disregard for international law and commitments,” he said. -he declares.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the attack was “absolutely appalling” and “completely unjustified”.
A day after the Istanbul agreement to open the 🇺🇦 ports for grain exports 🇷🇺 leads a missile attack on the port of Odessa. How should this be interpreted? Defense Minister 🇷🇺 signed the agreement in Istanbul. https://t.co/LglI1V1lPI
—Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) July 23, 2022
Russia’s Kalibr attack on the port of Odessa the day after signing an agreement with Turkey and the UN to facilitate grain exports is proof that Putin’s diplomacy is fraudulent in shape and form contents.
The Black Sea is not a Russian lake; it must be forcibly reopened.
— Dr. John Chipman IISS (@chipmanj) July 23, 2022
There was no official comment from Moscow, but Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Russia denied carrying out the attack.
“The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and are looking into the matter very closely,” Akar said in comments to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“We will continue to fulfill our responsibilities under the agreement we reached yesterday,” he added.
Regional Governor Maksym Marchenko said the strikes injured and damaged port infrastructure in Odessa, without specifying the number or severity of injuries.
The first major agreement between the countries since the invasion of Ukraine in February aims to alleviate “acute hunger” which the United Nations says faces an additional 47 million people due to war.
Hostility between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over to Friday’s signing ceremony in Istanbul – briefly delayed by disputes over displaying flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document that the Russians.
Ukraine entered the ceremony with a blunt warning that it would conduct “an immediate military response” if Russia breached the agreement and attacked its ships or staged an incursion around its ports.
The two sides eventually signed separate but identical agreements in the presence of Guterres and Erdogan at the lavish Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.
Guterres then hailed the deal as “a beacon of hope”.
Zelensky said shortly after the agreement was signed that the responsibility for its implementation lies with the United Nations, which, together with Turkey, is a co-guarantor of the agreement.
The agreement includes points on conducting Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.
Huge amounts of wheat and other grains were blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and the mines that Kyiv laid to avoid a feared amphibious assault.
Zelensky said around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current harvest would be exported under the deal, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around 10 billion. of dollars.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media that he expected the deal to start working “in the coming days”, although diplomats expect cereals only begin to circulate fully in mid-August.
The ornate halls of Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul felt far removed from the war zone of Donbass in eastern Ukraine, where Saturday was another day of relentless bombardment at the front.
Russia is trying to fight deeper in the eastern region of Donetsk after gaining full control of the neighboring city of Lugansk.
The US State Department said on Saturday that two Americans had died in the area, without specifying whether they were in the country for combat purposes.
Russian missile fire at railway infrastructure and a military airfield in the central area of Kirovograd on Saturday also killed at least three people and injured 16 others, regional governor Andriy Raikovych said.
At least one of the dead was a soldier, he said earlier, in a rare admission by a military casualty in a conflict in which military deaths have been closely monitored by both sides.
Russia also continued an artillery campaign on Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, with attacks wounding a woman, the presidency said.