Ukraine strives to resume grain exports despite Russian strike in Odessa

Firefighters work at a site of a Russian missile strike at a seaport in Odessa, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine July 23, 2022. Joint Forces Press Service of the Defense of the South/Handout via REUTERS Reuters_tickers

This content was published on July 24, 2022 – 12:42

By Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine continued efforts on Sunday to revive grain exports from its Black Sea ports under a deal to ease global food shortages, but warned deliveries would suffer if the Russia’s strike on Odessa was the 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.

Public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying after the strike that the missiles did not hit the port’s grain storage area or cause significant damage and Kyiv said preparations to resume grain shipments were in progress.

“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 on Saturday.

Russia said on Sunday its forces hit a Ukrainian warship and an arms store in Odessa with missiles.

The agreement signed Friday by Moscow and Kyiv was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices, with UN officials saying it could bring Ukrainian grain shipments back to pre-war levels. war of 5 million tons per month.

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 had the capacity to export 60 million tonnes of grain over the next nine months, but it would take up to 24 months if its ports could not function properly.

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.

The intensification of Russian shelling has prompted the mayor of Kharkiv to urge residents of Ukraine’s second-largest city to avoid land transport if possible.

“Last week showed that the aggressor no longer even pretends to fire at military targets,” Ihor Terekhov wrote on Telegram on Sunday. “Use the metro more often – to this day it’s the safest way to get around.”

Ukraine’s air force command said its forces shot down three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles early on Sunday, fired from the Black Sea and aimed at the western Khmelnytskiy region.

While the main theater of fighting has been the Donbass, Zelenskiy said in a video on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were moving “step by step” through the occupied Kherson region in the eastern Black Sea.

The strikes on Odessa have been condemned by the United Nations, European Union, United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.

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.

“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.

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.

SAFE PASSAGE

The strikes appeared to violate Friday’s agreement, which would allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine and Russia are the world’s leading wheat exporters and the blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea Fleet since the February 24 invasion of Moscow has trapped tens of millions of tonnes of grain, worsening bottlenecks bottleneck 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 down 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 vessels along safe channels.

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 global 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.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth in London and at Reuters offices; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Tomasz Janowski; Editing by William Mallard, Angus MacSwan and Alexandra Hudson)

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