Ukraine accused Russia of firing missiles at its key grain export port of Odesa on Saturday, a day after Moscow signed an agreement allowing Kyiv to resume grain exports to ease a global food crisis. demand is increasing.
According to Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Southern Military Command of Ukraine, two Kalibr cruise missiles hit the port of Odesa and two other missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.
Video posted on social media showed a large plume of smoke rising from the port. Oleksiy Honcharenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, wrote on the messaging app Telegram that at least six explosions were heard and an unspecified number of people were injured.
On Friday, the Russian Defense Minister signed an agreement brokered by the United Nations and agreed to allow Kyiv to export millions of tons of grain from ports in the Black Sea.
The Russian Navy has blocked Ukraine’s commercial sea lanes, launched missile attacks on the country’s ports and grain storage infrastructure, and attacked civilian grain transporters. since President Vladimir Putin ordered an all-out offensive. Invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.
Ukraine said Saturday’s strikes violated Russia’s promise not to attack its grain export infrastructure and called the viability of Friday’s deal into question.
Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, said Russia would “take full responsibility for deepening the global food crisis” if it did not keep its promise not to attack the port. He accused Putin of “spitting”.[ting] in the face of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who brokered the negotiations.
“Yesterday grain exports by sea were agreed, and today the Russians are docking at the port of Odesa. It’s Russia’s diplomatic dichotomy,” Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration, wrote on Twitter.
Zelenskyy told a visiting US congressional delegation that the attack “proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says or promises, it will find ways not to deliver,” according to the website. your.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attack, saying Russia was “starving Ukraine and the world’s economic vitality for food supplies”.
“This attack casts serious doubt on the reliability of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s agreement and undermines the work of the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine in providing food,” he said. important for the world market”.
The grain deal, which Guterres hailed as a “beacon of hope”, was the first major deal reached between the two sides in the five-month conflict.
The blockade has clogged a key economic lifeline for Ukraine and left an estimated 22 million tons of wheat, corn and other grains trapped in storage tanks, with devastating effects. global food prices and poverty levels.
Up to 47 million people, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are at risk of severe hunger due to conflict, according to the World Food Program, according to the World Food Program.
Guterres’ office released a statement saying he “definitively condemns” the strikes without directly blaming Russia.
“Yesterday, all parties made a clear commitment on the global stage to ensure the safe transportation of Ukrainian grain and related products to the global market,” the statement said.
“These products are essential to solving the global food crisis and alleviating the suffering of millions of people in need globally. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is mandatory”.
Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, said his Ukrainian counterpart informed him that a Russian missile hit a grain silo at the port but cargo facilities were not affected and Port operations continue. He also said that Russian officials had denied to him that they had anything to do with the attack.
“The fact that this happened immediately after the agreement we made yesterday regarding the shipment of grain has really worried us and we are very disturbed by this. However, we continue to fulfill our responsibilities in the agreement,” Akar told state news agency Anadolu.
Akar added that representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations have begun working together at a joint coordination center in Turkey and he remains hopeful that grain shipments will begin quickly.
Billionaire tycoon Roman Abramovich, who sold Chelsea Football Club in May after the UK and EU sanctioned him, attended the signing ceremony and played a key role in the deal, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Abramovich helped facilitate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine with Putin’s blessing before their collapse in April.
He visited Kyiv several times, where he met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and has since acted as a broker for prisoner exchanges and opening evacuation routes for civilians, according to people familiar with the matter. this.
“He was the key to it all. He is one of the only people close to Putin that Ukrainians talk to,” said one resident. A Ukrainian official said Abramovich’s role had become more prominent since peace talks stalled in the spring.
“He’s somehow part of a circle that deals with sensitive issues between Ukraine and Russia,” the official said. “He’s on the list of reliable people who can join any negotiations.”
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, denied that Abramovich played a significant role in the negotiations.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, officials in the port city of Mykolayiv said they had been hit by six Russian projectiles on Saturday. None of them attacked the port infrastructure and its facilities that were not part of the deal brokered in Turkey.
The Kremlin, the Turkish Foreign Ministry and a spokesman for Abramovich did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley and Felicia Schwartz