By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States has condemned Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine’s grain infrastructure, the State Department said on August 16, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of not caring about global food security.
State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel also called on Moscow to return immediately to a UN- and Turkey-brokered grain export deal that it withdrew from last month.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink reacted earlier to the Russian attacks on Ukraine’s port infrastructure on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“In yet another outrageous attack, Russia again strikes Ukraine’s port infrastructure and the world’s food supply overnight — these brazen and illegal strikes on civilian infrastructure only harden our resolve in support of Ukraine and those around the world who depend on Ukraine’s agricultural exports,” she said.
A cargo ship left the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa on August 16 in a test of what the Ukrainian government has described as a temporary “humanitarian corridor” to allow commercial ships to leave its ports despite a Russian blockade.
The Hong Kong-flagged ship left Odesa early on August 16, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov announced on Facebook. The ship had been stuck in Odesa since arriving there on February 23, 2022, one day before Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
It was reportedly carrying more than 2,000 containers with 30,000 metric tons of goods.
Kyiv announced the so-called humanitarian corridor on August 8 in an effort to enable ships that have been trapped in the ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Pivdenniy to leave.
Russia has not commented on the initiative or said whether it would respect the corridor. On August 13, a Russian military ship fired warning shots at a cargo vessel approaching the Ukrainian Danube port of Izmail. The ship was allowed to proceed after Russian troops bordered and searched it.
The ship that left Odesa on August 16 was the first commercial vessel to leave the port since July 16, one day before Moscow announced its withdrawal from the agreement to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.
The UN criticized the decision, saying it would “strike a blow to people in need everywhere.”
Since then, Russia has targeted Odesa and its port infrastructure with repeated air strikes.
The head of Odesa’s military administration, Oleh Kiper, announced on August 16 that Russian drone strikes overnight had attacked “one of the Danube ports, damaging warehouses and granaries.”
Kiper added that 11 Russian drones had been destroyed over Odesa during the night.
Moscow has also warned that ships traveling to Ukrainian Black Sea ports would be seen as potentially carrying military cargoes.
A NATO statement on July 26 said that warning “has created new risks for miscalculation and escalation, as well as serious impediments to freedom of navigation.”