June 5, 2023

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Ukraine to resume grain exports despite Russian strike in Odessa

Ukraine to resume grain exports despite Russian strike in Odessa

  • Moscow and Kiev signed a grain export agreement on Friday
  • The agreement sought to avert a major global food crisis
  • Zelensky: The attack shows that Moscow cannot be trusted with the deal

Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine pushed ahead on Sunday with efforts to restart grain exports from Black Sea ports after a missile attack on Odessa raised doubts about whether Russia would stick to a deal aimed at easing war-related global food shortages.

President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced Saturday’s strikes as “barbaric” that showed Moscow could not be trusted to implement an agreement brokered only a day earlier by Turkey and the United Nations.

Public broadcaster Suspilne quoted the Ukrainian military as saying after the strike that the missiles did not hit the port’s grain storage area and did not cause significant damage, and Kyiv said preparations for the resumption of grain shipments were underway.

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“We are continuing technical preparations for the launch of exports of agricultural products from our ports,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kobrakov said in a Facebook post.

On Sunday, Russia said its forces had bombed a Ukrainian warship and an arms depot in Odessa with missiles.

The agreement signed by Moscow and Kiev was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that would help curb rising global food prices by returning grain shipments from Ukrainian ports to pre-war levels of 5 million tons per month. Read more

But Zelensky’s economic adviser said on Sunday that the strike on Odessa showed that deliveries could be seriously disrupted.

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“Yesterday’s strike indicates that it certainly will not work in this way,” Ole Ostenko told Ukrainian television.

He said that while Ukraine has the capacity to export 60 million tons of grain over the next nine months, this could take up to 24 months if its ports are not working properly. Read more

The war enters the sixth month

With the war entering its sixth month on Sunday, there was no sign of the fighting stopping.

The Ukrainian military reported Russian bombing in the north, south and east, and again referred to Russian operations paving the way for an attack on Bakhmut in the Donbass region in the east.

The Air Force Command said that its forces shot down in the early hours of Sunday morning three Russian Kalibr cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea and targeting the western Khmelnitsky region.

While the main theater of fighting was in the Donbass, Zelensky said in a video Saturday that Ukrainian forces are moving “step by step” into the occupied Kherson region in the eastern Black Sea. Read more

The strikes on Odessa drew condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.

A video posted by the Ukrainian military showed firefighters battling a fire in an unidentified boat moored next to a tugboat. Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video or the date it was filmed.

Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that a Ukrainian warship and anti-ship missiles provided by the United States had been destroyed. Read more

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“A Ukrainian warship moored and a warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States were destroyed by long-range, precision-guided naval missiles in the port of Odessa on the land of the ship repair factory,” it added.

Turkey’s defense minister said on Saturday that Russian officials had told Ankara that Moscow had “nothing to do” with the strikes.

According to the Ukrainian military, two Kalibr missiles fired from two Russian warships hit the port’s pumping station area, while the air defense forces shot down two others.

safe passage

The strikes appeared to violate Friday’s agreement, which would allow safe passage into and out of Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, and the blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea fleet since the invasion of Moscow on February 24 has locked up tens of millions of tons of grain, exacerbating global supply chain bottlenecks.

Combined with Western sanctions on Russia, it has fueled food and energy price inflation, pushing some 47 million people into “severe hunger,” according to the World Food Program.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and for Ukraine for mining its ports.

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

A joint coordination center staffed by members of the four parties to the agreement is scheduled to monitor ships passing through the Black Sea to the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey and to global markets. On Friday, all parties agreed not to launch attacks on them.

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

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(Reporting by Natalia Zenets in Kyiv and Tom Balmforth in London and Reuters offices). Writing by Matt Spitalnick, Simon Cameron Moore and Thomas Janowski; Editing by William Mallard and Angus McSwan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.