Ukraine says Russia hit Black Sea port hours after Turkey-brokered deal
Russian missiles hit Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa hours after Moscow and Kyiv signed a U.N. and Turkey-brokered deal to allow grain exports to resume from there, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing Ukranian officials.
Saturday's strike was a "spit in the face" of Turkey and the United Nations, it cited the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as saying.
Two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles hit the port's infrastructure, while Ukrainian air defences brought down two others, according to the Ukrainian military's Southern Command, which didn’t specify the damage or provide information on whether the strike caused casualties.
Russia and Ukraine on Friday signed a landmark deal to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, following two months of brokering by the U.N. and Turkey, Reuters reported.
The accord, signed by Russia and Ukraine’s defence and infrastructure ministers respectively in Istanbul in a ceremony, was set to restore Ukrainian grain exports while easing Russian grain and fertilizer shipments despite tough Western sanctions on Moscow.
"It took less than 24 hours for Russia to launch a missile attack on Odesa's port, breaking its promises and undermining its commitments before the UN and Turkey under the Istanbul agreement," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. "In case of non-fulfilment, Russia will bear full responsibility for a global food crisis."
Since February, when the Russian invasion began, grain shipments from Ukrainian-controlled ports on the Black Sea have stalled, with some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos, threatening a worldwide food crisis.
The agreement signed on Friday was set to open the way for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports, including Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.
Saturday’s missile strike on the 150th day of Russia's war in Ukraine is Russian President Vladimir Putin's "spit in the face of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made great efforts to reach agreement,’’ Nikolenko said.
Guterres' office issued a statement saying the UN chief Antonio Guterres "unequivocally condemns" the strikes.
Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Saturday that Russian officials informed Ankara that Moscow had "nothing to do" with strikes on Ukraine's Odesa port, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.
"In our contact with Russia, the Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and that they were examining the issue very closely and in detail," it cited Akar as saying in a statement.
"The fact that such an incident took place right after the agreement we made yesterday really worried us," the country’s top defence official added.
(This article has been updated with Akar's remarks citing Russia in paragraphs 11-13)