Odesa strike shows it will not be easy to export grain via ports —Ukraine

Russia says it struck Ukrainian warship and Harpoon missiles depot in Odesa - agencies

Ukraine could export 60 million tonnes of grain in eight to nine months if its ports were not blockaded, but Russia’s strike on the port of Odesa showed it will definitely not be that easy, an economic adviser to the Ukrainian president said on Sunday.

Ukraine could earn €9.7 billion ($10 billion) by selling 20 million tonnes of grain in silos and 40 million tonnes from its new harvest, adviser Oleh Ustenko said. The harvest totals 60 million tonnes, of which 20 million are for domestic consumption, he said. —

“If the ports were unblocked now and we say we need to move 60 million tonnes of grain ... then we would transport 60 million tonnes of grain within eight-nine months,” he said.

“But with the way they are opening now and what Russia is doing in the Black Sea, yesterday’s strike shows that it definitely won’t work that way,” he said.


Russian missiles hit the port of Odesa a day after Russia and Ukraine, with mediation by the United Nations and Turkey, signed a deal to reopen Black Sea ports and resume grain exports. Moscow says it hit military infrastructure.

The deal is expected to ease global food shortages caused by the war.

Ukraine will need 20 to 24 months to export those volumes if its ports are not functioning properly, he said.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy denounced the strikes on Odesa as blatant “barbarism” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement Friday’s deal, mediated by Turkey and the United Nations (UN).

However, a government minister said preparations to resume grain shipments were continuing, and public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying the missiles had not significantly damaged the port.

Meanwhile, Russian forces have destroyed a Ukrainian warship and US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles in the Ukrainian port of Odesa, Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying on Sunday.

“A docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with U.S.-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles were destroyed by long-range precision-guided naval missiles in Odesa seaport on the territory of a ship repair plant.”

The Ukrainian military had said Russian missiles hit the southern port on Saturday, threatening a deal signed just one day earlier to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports and ease global food shortages caused by the war.

The deal signed by Moscow and Kyiv was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb soaring global food prices, but as the war entered its sixth month on Sunday there was no sign of a let-up in the fighting.

While the main theatre of combat has been the eastern region of Donbas, Mr Zelenskiy said in video posted late on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were moving “step by step” into the occupied eastern Black Sea region of Kherson.

Ukraine's military on Sunday reported Russian shelling in numerous locations in the north, south and east, and again referred to Russian operations paving the way for an assault on Bakhmut in the Donbas.

The strikes on Odesa drew strong condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union (EU), the United States (US), Britain, Germany and Italy. On Friday, UN officials had said they hoped the agreement would be operational in a few weeks.

Video released by the Ukrainian military showed firefighters battling a blaze on an unidentified boat moored alongside a tug boat. Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video or the date it was filmed.

Turkey’s defence minister said Russian officials told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes. Neither Russian defence ministry statements nor the military’s evening summary mentioned missile strikes in Odesa. The ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

Two Russian Kalibr missiles hit the area of a pumping station at the port, two others were shot down by air defence forces, according to Ukraine’s military. Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said the missiles were fired from warships in the Black Sea near Crimea.

Suspilne quoted Ukraine's southern military command as saying the port's grain storage area was not hit.

“Unfortunately there are wounded. The port's infrastructure was damaged,” said Odesa region governor Maksym Marchenko.

But Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook that “we continue technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports”.

The deal would restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tonnes a month, UN officials said.

The strikes appeared to violate Friday's deal, which would allow safe passage in and out of Ukrainian ports.

Mr Zelenskiy vowed to do everything possible to acquire air defence systems able to shoot down missiles like those that hit Odesa.

A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet since Moscow’s February 24th invasion has trapped tens of millions of tonnes of grain and stranded many ships.

This has worsened global supply chain bottlenecks. Along with western sanctions on Russia, it has stoked food and energy price inflation. Russia and Ukraine are large global wheat suppliers, and a global food crisis has pushed some 47 million people into “acute hunger,” according to the World Food Programme.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming western sanctions for slowing its food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement that the attack on Odesa “casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal.”

“Russia bears responsibility for deepening the global food crisis and must stop its aggression,” he said.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres “unequivocally condemned” the strikes, a spokesman said, adding full implementation of the deal was imperative.

Turkish defence minister Hulusai Akar said in a statement: “The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack ... The fact that such an incident took place right after the agreement we made yesterday really worried us.”

Ukraine has mined waters near its ports as part of its war defences, but under the deal pilots will guide ships along safe channels.

A joint co-ordination centre staffed by members of the four parties to the agreement are to monitor ships transiting the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosporus Strait and off to world markets. All sides agreed on Friday there would be no attacks on these entities.

Putin calls the war a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising Ukraine and rooting out dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West call this a baseless pretext for an aggressive land grab.

A US congressional delegation that met Mr Zelenskiy in Kyiv promised continued support.

Adam Smith, chair of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, was quoted as telling Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Washington and its allies aimed to provide more multiple rocket launch systems. — Agencies