Just one day after signing a truce with Ukraine to allow for the export of grains through three Black Sea ports, Russia launched an attack on Odessa to destroy a ship and a shed containing U.S. missiles, the Kremlin argued.
“In the seaport of Odessa, on the territory of a shipyard, a docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, supplied by the US to the Kiev regime, have been destroyed by sea-based high-precision long-range missiles,” Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday. The attack also crippled a repair facility where vessels of the Ukrainian navy have been fixed, Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow.
Odessa is a major trade hub in southwest Ukraine. But now Moscow has vowed to honor the truce and denied allegations from Washington and Kyiv that it was unwilling to comply with the pact. Since the beginning of hostilities, Moscow has insisted its troops only fired at Ukrainian forces and military infrastructure, not civilian facilities.
According to Kyiv, four cruise missiles were used in the attack on the port of Odessa, allegedly targeting grain silos located there. Two of the missiles were intercepted and two made it through, but failed to inflict significant damage, they said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the strike as “barbarism” and explained that “Russian Kalibr missiles destroyed the very possibility of statements” on the need for dialogue and any agreements with Moscow.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who witnessed the signing of the gran truce in Istanbul, condemned the attack on Odessa, because the products to be shipped from there are “desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe.”
Russia and the United Nations signed a memorandum providing for the UN’s involvement in lifting international sanctions on the export of Russian grain and fertilizers to world markets.
Zelenski insisted the attack had destroyed the very possibility of dialogue with Russia, while the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry considered the bombing as a spit in the face of Türkiye and the UN, which mediated the signing of the agreement in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The Ukrainian Southern Military Command said no grain storage facilities had been hit, but a Turkish Defense Ministry source said it had received reports from Ukrainian authorities of one missile hitting a silo, although none had affected cargo on the docks in Odessa.
The agreement was signed in Turkey and provides for unblocking the export through the Black Sea of 22 million tons of grain held up in Ukrainian ports because of the war. The country is one of the world's leading grain exporters. It also seeks to resume Russian fertilizer exports prevented by sanctions that the United States and other governments placed on Russia for the invasion.
The deal also commits both sides to refrain from attacks on three Black Sea ports from which grain must leave through safe corridors - Odessa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny.
Türkiye and the UN said the agreement should help alleviate the global food crisis caused by shortages of Ukrainian grain and Russian fertilizers on world markets, the flip side of which has been a global inflationary wave resulting from a sharp rise in food prices.
Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who signed the agreement, said that they were continuing technical preparations for launching exports of agricultural products from their ports. The grains are to leave from the Black Sea and reach the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. An operational center is already operating in Istanbul to coordinate shipments and inspections of ships to ensure that they are carrying grain.
Ukrainian authorities also reported further Russian shelling in the south and east of the country, as a part of a major Russian offensive to conquer the eastern region known as Donbas.
Meanwhile, in Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement conedmning Russia's attack: The United States strongly condemns Russia’s attack on the port of Odessa. Just 24 hours after finalizing a deal to allow the resumption of Ukrainian agricultural exports through the Black Sea, Russia breached its commitments by attacking the historic port from which grain and agricultural exports would again be transported under this arrangement, Blinken said.