KYIV: Russia on Monday brushed aside Western and Ukrainian alarm that a missile strike by its forces on Ukraine’s port of Odesa could derail a UN-brokered deal aimed at easing global food shortages by resuming grain exports from the Black Sea region.
The Kremlin said Saturday’s strike – denounced by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “barbarism” – had only targeted military infrastructure and would not impact the grain export arrangements in the deal reached on Friday in Istanbul.
A global wheat shortage and soaring European energy prices are some of the most far-reaching effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, threatening millions in poorer countries with hunger and prompting fears in Europe over heating supplies this winter.
As the war enters its sixth month, the Ukrainian military reported widespread Russian shelling in eastern Ukraine overnight. It said Moscow continued to prepare for an assault on Bakhmut in the industrial Donbas region, which Russia aims to seize on behalf of separatist proxies.
Near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city located in the country’s northeast, three people were trapped under the rubble of a cultural centre in the town of Chuhuyiv and a fourth person was wounded, Zelenskiy’s office said.
Ukraine said on Monday its forces had used U.S-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to destroy 50 Russian ammunition depots since receiving the weapons last month. Russia did not immediately comment but its Defence Ministry said its forces had destroyed an ammunition depot for HIMARS systems.
Reuters could not independently verify the Russian or Ukrainian statements.
Friday’s agreement on grain exports aims to allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports, blocked by Russia’s Black Sea fleet since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion. A UN official called the deal a “de facto ceasefire” for the ships and facilities covered.
The Ukrainian military said two Kalibr missiles fired from Russian warships hit the area of a pumping station at the port and two others were shot down by air defence forces. They did not hit the grain storage area or cause significant damage.
Russia said its forces had hit a Ukrainian warship and a weapons store in Odesa with precision missiles.
“These strikes are connected exclusively with military infrastructure,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
“They are in no way related to infrastructure that is used for the export of grain. This should not affect – and will not affect – the beginning of shipments.”