Russian missiles hit the main port of Odessa in southern Ukraine on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said, dealing a blow to an agreement signed Friday to unblock grain exports from ports on the Black Sea.
The landmark agreement signed by Moscow and Kiev on Friday is seen as key to curbing rising global food prices and alleviating a supply shortage by allowing certain exports to be shipped from Black Sea ports, including Odessa.
UN officials on Friday had said they hoped the agreement would be operational within weeks, but it was not yet clear whether that would still be possible given Saturday’s strikes.
“The enemy attacked Odessa’s maritime trading port with Kalibr cruise missiles,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Two missiles hit infrastructure in the port, while another two were shot down by air defense forces, it said.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry called on the United Nations and Turkey, which brokered Friday’s deal, to ensure that Russia honors its obligations and allows free passage in the grain corridor.
The US ambassador to Kiev, Bridget Brink, called the strike “outrageous”.
“The Kremlin continues to arm food. Russia must be held accountable,” Brink wrote on Twitter.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
A blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea fleet since the invasion of Moscow on February 24 has captured tens of millions of tons of grain and stranded many ships. This has exacerbated bottlenecks in the global supply chain and, along with Western sanctions against Russia, fueled food and energy price inflation.
Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers, and the war has pushed food prices up. A global food crisis has pushed some 47 million people into “acute hunger,” according to the World Food Program.
Friday’s deal aims to prevent famine in poorer countries by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products into global markets, including for humanitarian needs, partly at lower prices.
UN officials said Friday that the deal, expected to be fully operational within a few weeks, would restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tons per month.
Under the deal, Ukrainian officials would guide ships through secure channels across mining waters to three ports, including Odessa, where they would be loaded with grain.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for reclaiming access to its Black Sea ports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Friday the deal would make about $10 billion worth of grain available for sale with about 20 million tons of last year’s crop to be exported.
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