Russian missiles hit Odessa after Moscow agreed to a grain export deal with Kyiv

Ukraine accused Russia of firing missiles at the main grain export port of Odessa on Saturday, a day after Moscow signed a deal allowing Kiev to resume grain exports in a bid to alleviate a growing global food crisis.

Two Kalibr cruise missiles hit the port of Odessa and two more were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, according to Serhiy Prachuk, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command.

Videos posted on social media showed a large plume of smoke rising from the port. Oleksiy Honcharenko, a member of the Verkhovna Rada, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that he heard at least six explosions and an unspecified number of people were injured.

On Friday, Russian Defense Minister signed a deal Under the mediation of the United Nations and Turkey, they agreed to allow Kiev to export millions of tons of grain from its ports on the Black Sea.

The Russian Navy has closed Ukraine’s commercial sea routes, launched missile strikes on its ports and grain storage infrastructure, and attacked civilian grain transport ships since President Vladimir Putin ordered the full scope. Invasion of Ukraine In late February.

Ukraine said Saturday’s strikes violated Russia’s pledge not to attack its grain export infrastructure and called the feasibility of Friday’s deal into question.

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, said Russia “will bear full responsibility for the aggravation of the global food crisis” if it does not honor its promises not to attack the port. He accused Putin of “spitting”.[ting] In the face of “UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who mediated the talks.

Yesterday it was agreed to export grain by sea, and today the Russians arrive in the port of Odessa. Such is the Russian diplomatic split, Andrei Yermak, head of the administration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter.

The agreement, which Guterres described as a “beacon of hope”, was the first major agreement reached between the two sides in the five-month conflict.

The blockade has choked Ukraine’s crucial economic lifeline and left an estimated 22 million tons of wheat, corn and other grains stuck in silos, with devastating effects on the country. International food prices and poverty levels.

Up to 47 million people, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, are at risk of acute starvation due to conflict, according to the World Food Program.

Guterres’ office issued a statement saying it “unequivocally condemns” the strikes, without directly blaming Russia.

“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the world stage to ensure the safe transportation of Ukrainian grain and related products to world markets,” the statement said.

These products are badly needed to tackle the global food crisis and alleviate the suffering of millions of people in need around the world. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative.”

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said his Ukrainian counterpart told him that a Russian missile had hit a grain silo at the port, but cargo-loading facilities were not affected and activities at the port were continuing. He also said that Russian officials denied he had anything to do with the attack.

“The fact that this incident occurred right after the agreement we made yesterday on the grain shipment really worries us, and we are upset about this. But we continue to fulfill our responsibilities in the agreement,” Akar told the state-run Anadolu News Agency.

Akar added that representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations have already started working together in a joint coordination center in Turkey, and he still hopes that grain shipments will begin quickly.

Billionaire Roman Abramovich, who sold Chelsea Football Club in May after being forced by the United Kingdom and the European Union, attended the signing ceremony and played a key role in the deal, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Abramovich helped facilitate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine with Putin’s blessing before they collapsed in April.

He visited Kyiv several times, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and has since played a role in brokering a prisoner exchange and opening evacuation routes for civilians, according to people familiar with the matter.

He was the key to everything. He’s one of the only people close to Putin the Ukrainians talk to, one person said. A Ukrainian official said Abramovich’s role has become more prominent since peace talks faltered in the spring.

“In a way he is part of the department that deals with sensitive issues between Ukraine and Russia,” the official said. “He is on the list of trusted people who can participate in any conversations.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied that Abramovich played a decisive role in the talks.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, officials in the port city of Mykolaiv reported that they were hit by six Russian shells on Saturday. None of the port infrastructure has been affected and its facilities are not part of the deal brokered in Turkey.

The Kremlin, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and Abramovich’s spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Ayla Jane Yackley

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