Russia has launched another round of heavy drone attacks on Ukraine, as more cargo ships loaded in Ukrainian ports in defiance of Moscow’s attempted naval blockade and the European Union’s top diplomat said arms supplies to Kyiv should be accelerated.
Ukraine said it shot down 16 of 30 explosive drones launched by Russia in the early hours of Sunday, a day after intercepting 30 of 40 drones fired at central and southern Ukraine, with ports on the Black Sea and the Danube river and grain silos being targeted again.
“Overnight, the enemy massively attacked our Cherkasy region with strike drones. Unfortunately, there were hits on industrial infrastructure in [the city of] Uman,” said Ihor Taburets, governor of the province in central Ukraine. “As a result, fires broke out in warehouses… where grain was stored,” he added.
Russia has launched almost nightly drone and missile attacks on grain silos and port infrastructure in Black Sea cities such as Odesa and Mykolaiv, and in the smaller Danube river ports of Izmail and Reni, since withdrawing in July from an agreement to safeguard shipments of Ukrainian grain to world markets.
In response, Ukraine announced the opening of what it calls a “temporary humanitarian corridor” for ships to reach its Black Sea ports, which hugs the coastlines of Nato members Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Use of the route is intensifying, in what Kyiv calls proof that Russia cannot stop civilian shipping if the parties involved show resolve.
“Three vessels loaded with grain and iron ore left the ports of Chornomorsk and Pivdenniy, five new cargo vessels are waiting to moor in the ports for loading,” Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Sunday.
He added that the three departing ships, registered in Liberia and Palau, were carrying 127,000 tonnes of agricultural products and iron ore, and the five new arrivals would load almost 120,000 tonnes of Ukrainian grain for delivery to Africa and Europe.
Ukraine has stepped up drone and rocket attacks on Russian territory and the occupied Crimea peninsula in recent weeks, and Moscow said its forces shot down at least six drones over western and southern Russia and two missiles near Crimea on Sunday.
Russian officials said three people were hurt by Ukrainian shelling in the Belgorod region of Russia, and civilian flights were disrupted temporarily at Sochi airport on the Black Sea. The drone strike hit an area of the Sochi airfield where Russian military helicopters are parked, according to unnamed sources in Ukraine’s security services quoted by local media.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that his country’s first defence industries forum – which gathered executives from more than 250 weapons firms based in more than 30 states – laid the platform for more joint production deals with foreign companies and for Ukraine to become a major player in the global arms industry.
German arms maker Rheinmetall and British-based BAE Systems have announced plans for joint operations in Ukraine with local producers, and Mr Zelenskiy last week hailed a “historic decision” by the United States to enter a similar deal with Kyiv.
Visiting Kyiv on Sunday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “Russia’s war against Ukraine is an existential threat for all of us… Ukraine needs more capabilities and needs them faster. We are preparing long-term security commitments for Ukraine.”