Russia acknowledged Sunday that it launched a missile strike on the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa after agreeing late last week that Ukrainian grain could again be exported from the city.
“Kalibr missiles destroyed military infrastructure in the port of Odesa, with a high-precision strike,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted on her Telegram account.
Russia earlier had denied any involvement in the Saturday strike that came a day after Russia and Ukraine had signed agreements allowing Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain out of its Black Sea port.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Russia for jeopardizing the grain deal.
In his daily address late Saturday, Zelenskyy said the attack “on Odesa, on our port, is a cynical one, and it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself. If anyone in the world could still say that some kind of dialogue … with Russia, some kind of agreements are needed, see what is happening. Today’s Russian Kalibr missiles have destroyed the very possibility for such statements.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed a similar sentiment in a statement issued late Saturday.
“This attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to [Friday’s] deal and undermines the work of the UN, Turkey, and Ukraine to get critical food to world markets,” the top U.S. diplomat said. “Russia bears responsibility for deepening the global food crisis and must stop its aggression and fully implement the deal to which it has agreed.”
David Miliband, chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement, “For 12 hours we dared to hope for relief of the global hunger crisis from shipments of Ukrainian grain. We have said it before; the war in Ukraine is a tragedy for Ukraine but also a global disaster for those in greatest need. This latest twist is as cruel as it is dangerous.”
Ukrainian public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not caused significant damage, and a government minister said preparations are continuing to restart grain exports from the country’s Black Sea ports, according to Reuters.
The strikes drew strong condemnation from other world officials.
“Yesterday, all parties made clear commitments on the global stage to ensure the safe movement of Ukrainian grain and related products to global markets,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe. Full implementation by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Turkey is imperative,” Guterres said.
U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink called the strike “outrageous,” while European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s actions “reprehensible.”
“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements … demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” he said.
Zelenskyy said the strike on Odesa “proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it.”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, a Russian missile attack on an airfield and a railway facility in central Ukraine Saturday killed three people and wounded at least 13, according to local officials.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said early Saturday that in the previous 48 hours, heavy fighting had been taking place as Ukrainian forces continued their offensive against Russian forces in Kherson oblast, west of the Dnipro River.
In the statement posted to Twitter, the ministry said, “Russia is likely attempting to slow the Ukrainian attack using artillery fire along the natural barrier of the Ingulets River, a tributary of the Dnipro. Simultaneously, the supply lines of the Russian force west of the Dnipro are increasingly at risk.”