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Russia says missiles sank Ukrainian warship in attacks on Odessa port

#Russia #missiles #sank #Ukrainian #warship #attacks #Odessa #port

Russia said on Sunday that its rocket fire on a Ukrainian port key to a newly signed grain export deal targeted military infrastructure at the facility, after the attack sparked an outcry from Ukraine and its allies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned Saturday’s strike at the port of Odessa – which came just a day after the warring parties agreed to resume exports blocked by the conflict – as “Russian barbarism”.

Turkey helped broker the deal and after the twin cruise missile attacks said it had received assurances from Moscow that Russian forces were not responsible.

But the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman appeared to backtrack on that Sunday of denial, saying the strikes had destroyed a Ukrainian warship.

“Kalibr missiles destroyed military infrastructure in the port of Odessa with a high-precision strike,” Maria Zakharova said in a statement on social media, claiming that a “patrol boat” was sunk.

The port attack has thrown into question the agreement hammered out over months of negotiations and signed in Istanbul to alleviate a global food crisis.

Zelenskyy said the strikes in Odessa showed that Moscow cannot be trusted to keep its promises and that dialogue with Moscow is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

“This blatant Russian barbarism brings us even closer to obtaining the very weapons we need for our victory,” Zelenskyy said in a late-night address to the nation.

Under the deal brokered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Odessa is one of three designated export hubs.

– Mykolayiv attacks –

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. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the “reprehensible” strikes show Russia’s disregard for its commitments.

The United States has “strongly condemned” the attack, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it “casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal.”

There was no response from Moscow until Zakharova’s claims on Sunday, but Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Russia denied carrying out the attack.

“The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack,” he told the state news agency Anadolu.

Odessa Region Governor Maksym Marchenko said the strikes injured people and damaged port infrastructure in Odessa, without specifying the number or severity of the injuries.

The first major deal between the countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February aims to alleviate “acute hunger” which the UN says is affecting another 47 million people because of the war.

Ukraine warned at the signing that it would mount “an immediate military response” if Russia violated the agreement and attacked its ships or staged an incursion into its ports.

Zelensky said responsibility for enforcing the deal rests with the United Nations, which is a co-guarantor of the deal along with Turkey. Turkey said it committed to the deal after the attack.

The deal includes points for operating Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid 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.

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

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he expects the deal to start “in the next few days,” although diplomats expect the grain won’t be fully flowing until mid-August.

The deal in Istanbul has brought little respite on the battlefield where Russian forces bombed the sprawling front line over the weekend, Ukraine’s presidency said on Sunday.

Four Russian cruise missiles hit residential areas in the southern city of Mykolayiv, wounding five people, including a teenager, on Saturday, it said, among attacks in the industrial east and south.

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