Ukraine: Odessa port targeted by Russian attack after grain deal expires

A Russian night attack damaged infrastructure in the port of Odessa, a major destination for Ukrainian grain exports, hours after the end of an agreement that allowed it to move through the Black Sea despite a Russian invasion. was allowed.

Moscow on Monday refused to extend the grain deal signed in July 2022 under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey and then extended several times, condemning barriers to trade in fertilizers and Russian products.

Regional governor Oleg Kiper said on Telegram that before dawn on Tuesday, six Kalibr missiles launched by Russia and 21 Iranian-made Shahid-136 explosive drones were “destroyed” by Ukrainian air defense in Odessa (south).

Overall, over Ukrainian territory, 31 of the 36 attack drones launched by Russia were shot down overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said.

In another major southern city of Mykolaiv, northeast of Odessa, “industrial infrastructure” was also damaged, causing fires but no casualties, according to governor Vitaly Kim.

Odessa and its region are home to three ports through which Ukraine, under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, can export its agricultural products despite the war and the blockade imposed by Russia.

Over a year, the agreement has enabled the removal of some 33 million tonnes of grain, mainly maize and wheat, from Ukrainian ports, helping to stabilize world food prices and curb the risk of shortages.

Moscow’s refusal to pursue the deal was condemned by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who insisted that “hundreds of millions of people are facing hunger” and that they would “pay a price”.

For his part, the head of US diplomacy, Anthony Blinken, called the Russian decision “unacceptable”, accusing Moscow of using “food as a weapon”.

– Ukrainian attack –

As for Ukraine, it has shown willingness to continue exporting its grain through the Black Sea, with or without Moscow’s agreement on ship safety.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “Even without Russia, everything should be done so that we can use this corridor in the Black Sea. We are not afraid.”

At the moment, Russia has indicated to end the system of not receiving calls which has increased manifold for the renewal of the agreement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said, “If Western capitals really appreciate the Black Sea Initiative, they seriously consider fulfilling their obligations and effectively withdrawing Russian fertilizers and food from sanctions.”

Hours before the denial, Moscow maintained that the two incidents were not linked after a Ukrainian attack damaged a key bridge linking Russia with Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula it annexed in 2014. was taken.

There has been significant damage to the road section of the bridge, which is used exclusively to transport equipment for the Russian military, but “vehicular traffic in the opposite direction has been restored” on one lane of the bridge, the deputy said on Tuesday. said in the early hours -Russian Prime Minister Marat Khosnullin on Telegram.

A source in the Ukrainian security services (SBU) told AFP on Monday that the attack, which killed two civilians driving a car, was carried out by the Ukrainian navy and secret service using “naval drones”.

In October 2022, an explosion attributed by Moscow to a truck bomb caused extensive damage and took months of work to fully restore it to service.

The war in Ukraine: the situation as of July 18 (AFP – Clea Peculiar, Valentin Rakovsky, Sophie Ramis)

On Monday evening, Vladimir Putin said he was looking forward to “concrete proposals to improve the security of this important and strategic transport infrastructure”, assuring that there would be “a definite response from Russia” to the attack. .

On the front, the Ukrainian military has reported “intense” fighting over the past few days. In a telegram on Tuesday, Ukrainian ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky spoke of the situation in the country’s east as “difficult” but “under control”.

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