Russia defended its attack on a Ukrainian port after Kyiv said the missile strikes violated the breakthrough agreement on grain shipments reached by the two countries only a day earlier.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov insisted the strikes on Odesa Saturday destroyed only military targets, including a docked Ukrainian warship and warehouse filled with US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Two of the four missiles fired were shot down by Kyiv’s air defenses, according to Ukraine’s military.
Ukrainian command spokesperson Nataliya Humenyuk said no grain storage facilities were hit. But Turkey’s defense minister, citing reports from Ukrainian authorities, said one missile struck a grain silo and another landed nearby, although neither affected loading at Odesa’s docks.
The strike appeared to violate the UN-brokered deal between Russia and Ukraine that was signed in Istanbul on Friday. The deal was meant to allow the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain in hopes of alleviating the threat of food insecurity around the globe.
The terms of the agreement specified that both countries would refrain from attacks on ports or civilian grain transport ships, according to a draft obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assailed Russia’s actions, saying the attack on Odesa “destroyed the very possibility” of dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow.
Zelensky’s economic advisor warned the strikes on Odesa would hinder the country’s efforts to restore Ukrainian grain shipments to pre-war levels of 5 million tons each month as it aims to curb soaring food prices.
“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it will definitely not work like that,” Oleh Ustenko told Ukrainian television.
Ukraine could export 60 million tons of grain over the next nine months, but it could take 24 months if operations at ports are disrupted, he said.
The latest development comes as the war enters its six month following Russia’s February invasion of its neighboring country.
In other parts of Ukraine, Russian forces killed and injured civilians from shelling in the country’s south and east, according to Ukraine officials.
The governor of the eastern Donetsk region said two civilians were killed and two more wounded in the last 24 hours. The region makes up one of two in Ukraine’s industrial heartland of the Donbas, which Moscow has relentlessly focused on.
Despite the further bloodshed, the UK military reported Sunday that Russia was making “minimal progress” in its Donbas offensive, which it said remained small-scale and concentrated on the city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk area.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff confirmed in regular updates that Russia was “conducting military operations to create conditions” for an attack on Bakhmut as Russian soldiers were also firing on nearby settlements and batting Ukrainian soldiers for control of a thermal plant.
In Ukraine’s south, regional officials confirmed at least five civilians were injured by Russian shells in Mykolaiv, a port off the Black Sea late Saturday into Sunday morning.
With Post wires