February 20, 2024

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Russia hits Ukraine’s Black Sea port despite grain deal

Russia hits Ukraine's Black Sea port despite grain deal

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian port of Odessa on the Black Sea just hours after Moscow and Kiev signed agreements. to allow the resumption of grain exports from there. Ukraine’s foreign ministry condemned Saturday’s air strikes as a “spit in the face” for Turkey and the United Nations, which brokered the deals.

The Ukrainian Army’s Southern Command said two Russian Kalibr missiles hit the port’s infrastructure, while Ukrainian air defenses shot down another two. The governor of the Odessa region, Maxim Marchenko, said an unspecified number of people were injured in the attack.

Command spokeswoman Natalia Homenyuk said that grain storage facilities in Odessa had not been targeted. However, Turkey’s defense minister said he had spoken with Ukrainian authorities, that a missile hit a grain silo and another landed nearby, but neither affected loading at the Odessa docks.

“It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on the port of Odessa, breaking its promises and undermining its obligations to the United Nations and Turkey under the Istanbul Agreement,” said Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko. “In the event of non-fulfilment, Russia will bear full responsibility for the global food crisis.”

“The invaders can no longer deceive anyone,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

Nikolenko described the missile strike on the 150th day of the Russian war in Ukraine as “the spit of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made great efforts to reach an agreement.”

Guterres’ office said the UN chief “unequivocally condemns” the strikes.

“Yesterday, all parties made a clear commitment on the world stage to ensure the safe transportation of Ukrainian grain and related products to world markets,” Guterres’ statement said. “These products are badly needed to tackle the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of people.”

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It was not clear how Russia’s air strikes on Saturday would affect the plan to resume shipment of Ukrainian grain by sea in safe lanes from three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. Ukraine and Russia signed identical agreements on Friday with the United Nations and Turkey in Istanbul to support the plan, which Guterres called a “beacon of hope” for a world where food prices are rising rapidly.

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The agreements sought to clear the way for the shipment of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and some Russian exports of grain and fertilizer that had been hampered by the war. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the Russian invasion and naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press showed the deals called for the establishment of a joint UN-led coordination center in Istanbul where officials from Ukraine, Russia and Turkey would oversee the scheduling and inspection of cargo ships.

Zelensky previously described the accords as “an opportunity to prevent a global catastrophe – a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries of the world, particularly in the countries that help us.”

Zelensky’s office chief, Andrei Yermak, said on Twitter that the Odessa strike, which came shortly after the approval of the Black Sea deal, illustrated the “Russian diplomatic split”.

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, condemned the attack on the port of Odessa as “outrageous”.

“The Kremlin continues to arm food,” she wrote on Twitter. Russia must be held accountable.

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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the attack cast doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to the deal and undermined the work of the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine.

“Russia bears the responsibility for deepening the global food crisis, and it must stop its aggression and fully implement the agreement it agreed to,” he said.

Russia also fired a barrage of missiles on Saturday at an airport and a railway facility in central Ukraine, killing at least three people, while Ukrainian forces launched missile strikes on river crossings in a southern Russian-occupied region.

Attacks on key infrastructure constituted new attempts by the warring parties to turn the scales of the grinding conflict in their favor.

In the Kirovohradsk region of central Ukraine, 13 Russian missiles hit an air base and a railway facility. Governor Andrei Rajkovich said at least one soldier and two guards were killed and 16 wounded in the strikes near the city of Kirovohrad.

In the southern Kherson region, captured by Russian forces early in the invasion, Ukrainian forces preparing for a possible counterattack fired missiles at the Dnieper River crossings in an attempt to disrupt Russian supply lines. However, Russian forces have largely maintained their territory in the Kherson region north of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol, which is now under Russia, said that in the Zaporizhia region, Russian forces are blocking 1,200 vehicles carrying people fleeing the area, and four people died after being stranded there for several days amid high temperatures. control.

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In the main port city of Mykolaiv, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said two people were injured when Russian missiles hit an apartment building.

Fighting also raged relentlessly in the Donbass region, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, as Russian forces attempted to make new gains in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance..

Earlier this week, Ukraine bombed the Antonevsky Bridge across the Dnieper River using a US-supplied high-mobility artillery missile system.said Kirill Strimosov, deputy head of the Russia-appointed regional administration in Kherson.

Strimosov told the Russian state news agency TASS that the only other crossing of the Dnieper, the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant dam, was also attacked by missiles fired with weapons supplied by Washington but was not damaged.

HIMARS, which can fire GPS-guided missiles at targets 80 kilometers (50 miles), out of reach of most Russian artillery systems, has greatly enhanced Ukraine’s strike capability.

In addition, Ukrainian forces bombed a motor bridge across the Inhulets River in the village of Darivka, Strimosov told Tass. He said that the bridge, which is located east of the regional capital Kherson, suffered seven injuries, but it remained open. Strimosov said that unlike the Antonevsky Bridge, the Small Bridge at Darivka has no strategic value.

Since April, the Kremlin has focused on seizing Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking region where pro-Moscow separatists have declared independence.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed this week that Moscow plans to retain control of other areas of Ukraine that its forces occupied during the war.


Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine