Russian missiles hit Odessa, damaging grain export deal

KYIV, Ukraine: Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s key Black Sea port of Odessa on Saturday, officials said, in an attack in Kyiv described as a ‘spit in the face’ of a signed deal by warring neighbors a day earlier to resume conflict-stymied grain exports.

Two cruise missiles hit terminal infrastructure, regional authorities said on social media, casting a shadow over the historic deal struck during months of negotiations aimed at alleviating a global food crisis caused by stalled deliveries that drove down wheat prices.

“The Russian missile (strike) is the spitting of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin in the face of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep (Tayyip) Erdogan, who have made tremendous efforts to reach an agreement “said Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko. . 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.

Nikolenko said Russia would bear “full responsibility for the worsening global food crisis” if the deal was jeopardized by the assault.

“The enemy attacked the seaport of Odessa with Kalibr cruise missiles. Two of the missiles were shot down by air defenses. Two hit port infrastructure,” said Sergiy Bratchuk, a representative of the Odessa region. Odessa in a statement on social networks.

Hostility between Moscow and Kyiv had spilled over into 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.

“Today there is a beacon on the Black Sea – a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief,” António Guterres said moments before the signing.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said responsibility for implementing the deal would lie with the UN, which, along with Turkey, is a co-guarantor of the deal.

The agreement includes points on managing Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea. Huge amounts of wheat and other grains have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and landmines laid by Kyiv to stave off 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 United States, Britain and the European Union have welcomed the Istanbul deal while urging Moscow to stick to its rules.

The global grain alarm has been accompanied by European fears that Russia is beginning to use its stranglehold on energy exports as a geopolitical weapon in its standoff with the West.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of routinely violating agreements after forces from Moscow shelled the port of Odessa on Saturday, a key facility in a grain export deal that the warring sides have signed the day before.

“It only proves one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” Zelensky said during a meeting with US lawmakers, according to a press release. presidency.

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.

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