US Politics

Russian strikes at the port of Odessa cast doubt on the grain business

#Russian #strikes #port #Odessa #cast #doubt #grain #business

Russian missiles struck Ukraine’s Odessa port on Saturday, in what Kyiv called a “spit in the face” of a one-day deal between the warring parties to resume grain exports blocked by the conflict.

Ukraine’s military said its air defenses downed two cruise missiles but two more hit the port, threatening the landmark deal negotiated in months of negotiations to alleviate a global food crisis.

The spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry 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 Zelenskyy claimed that the airstrikes on Odessa showed that Moscow could not keep its promises.

“It only proves one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” he said at a meeting with U.S. lawmakers, according to a presidency statement.

Odessa is one of three export centers specified in the agreement, and Ukrainian officials said grain was being stored at the port at the time of the strike, although food stocks appeared unaffected.

Guterres – who led Friday’s signing ceremony – “unequivocally” condemned the attack, his deputy spokesman said, urging all sides to abide by the deal.

“These products are urgently needed to address the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of people in need around the world,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell blamed Russia directly for the strikes.

“Beating a key grain export target a day after the signing(s) of the Istanbul Accords is particularly reprehensible and again demonstrates Russia’s utter disregard for international law and obligations,” he said.

There was no official comment from Moscow, but Turkey’s Defense Minister Huluski Akar said Russia denied carrying out the attack.

“The Russians have told us that they have absolutely nothing to do with this attack and are looking into the matter very closely,” Akar told state-run Anadolu Agency.

“We will continue to fulfill our responsibilities under the agreement we reached yesterday,” he added.

– 20 million tons of wheat –

The first major deal between the countries since February’s invasion of Ukraine aims to alleviate “acute hunger” which the United Nations says is exposing an additional 47 million people because of the war.

Animosity between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into Friday’s signing ceremony in Istanbul – briefly delayed by disputes over displaying flags at the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

Ukraine entered the ceremony by bluntly warning that it would launch “an immediate military response” if Russia violated 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 Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

Guterres then described the agreement as a “beacon of hope”.

Zelenskyy said shortly after the deal was signed that the responsibility for enforcement rests with the United Nations, which is a co-guarantor of the deal along with Turkey.

The agreement includes points to guide Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors avoiding known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grains were blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and the Kiev mines were laid to stave off a feared amphibious attack.

Zelenskyy said around 20 million tons of products from last year’s harvest and the current harvest would be exported under the deal, and estimated the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around $10 billion.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told state Kremlin media he expects the deal to work “in the next few days,” though diplomats expect the grain won’t be fully flowing until mid-August.

– strikes in central Ukraine –

The ornate halls of Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace felt a far cry from the Donbass war zone in eastern Ukraine, where Saturday saw another day of relentless shelling from the front lines.

Russia is trying to push deeper into the Donetsk region of the war zone after gaining full control of neighboring Lugansk.

The US State Department said Saturday that two Americans died in the area, without saying if the couple were in the country for combat purposes.

Russian missile attacks on railway infrastructure and a military airfield in central 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 previously said, in a rare acknowledgment of a military casualty in a conflict where military deaths have been closely guarded by both sides.

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